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Author of "Olga BaWel," **Ju 
"The Querrils," etc. 



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COPTUGHT. 1920, 

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I " The Duchess of Pmss '' 1 

II A Cbowded Life 14 

ni The Limited Monaboht 27 

ly Lauba's Affaib 38 

V Backgbounds 52 

VI Odd Socks 65 

VII Chance 80 

Vni The Becher Studio W 

IX The Dissecting-Room 108 

X The Cuban Assassin 122 

XI Anna 137 

Xn Success Has Its Pbicb 163 

XIII That Which Is Always Changing in Mb . . 167 

XIV The Search for Pr(m»ortion 180 

XV Not a Nice Thing to Have Happened . . . 192 

XVI A FmsT-WiCKET Man 208 

XVEI Adequate Encouragement 223 

XVTII The Rabbit 237 

XIX The Instrument Awakened 250 

XX The Science of Suffering 262 


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CITY 0^ \^'V VI,, ^« 




WHAT I used to like about my father's garden 
in Camden Town was the spiders. Espe- 
cially in the autumn when they got big and 
greedy. I used to like to creep out there in the morn- 
ing before school, when no one was about. Their webs, 
sparkling with tiny drops of dew, stretched cunningly 
between the yellowing leaves, always gave me a thrill. 
The tool-house door was a good spot to catch flies, and 
I became quite clever at it I used to throw them into 
the spider's web. The spectacle which followed always 
sickened me — I felt my heart beating — but it was 
tremendously moving and exciting. The spider is 
surely the most efficient thing alive ... so masterful, 
80 well equipped. He is always worth watching, if 
only for his craftsmanship. The sensitive control over 
the skein of web effected, then the pounce, and those 
appalling long circular legs that must seem to attack 
the victim all round. He appears to do what fighting 
there is to be done right away from any vital portions 
of his own anatomy. But it's all over in a second. 
The victim is rolled round and round and round, bound 


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up and trussed, given one good bite, and left. It 
used to annoy me sometimes that he left it so soon, and 
went back to stage centre. You could see the thing 
struggling in its mesh. Sometimes they caught bees 
and wasps. This would appear to be a fairer fight, 
but the spider always won. The most satisfactory 
thing to throw into a spider's web is a daddy-long-legs. 
They always stick. They have such clumsy legs and 
long wings, and you feel that they must make such 
a fine meal for the spider. If you throw a fly too hard 
it goes right through. ... 

One day Laura found me doing this. She had been 
watohing me from the bathroom window. She called 
me '* a disgusting little beast.'* She rushed at me and 
scratched my face, and pushed me over some flower- 
pots. She was thirteen then, three years older than 
I, but I was a man. I suppose women will never un- 
derstand men. I was in a blind fury as I squared 
up to her. Ingrained in me was an instinct that it is 
man's business to understand about killing things. 
Women are fools. Laura and I were always fighting, 
but we never fought with such venom as we did that 
morning. Neither spoke. Occasionally we groaned or 
screamed with pain as some chance blow or scratch or 
kick got home. Quarter was neither given nor asked. 
Laura was fighting for some vague and silly sentiment, 
and I was fighting for the prerogative of sportsman- 
ship, for manhood, and, incidentally, for the spider 

. Laura was taller than I, and quite unscrupulous in 
her methods of fighting. I made her nose bleed, but 
otherwise I was undoubtedly getting the worst of it. 
She had scratched my face, bitten my thumb, torn my 
hair, and kicked me on the shins and knees. It was 
with something of relief then that I heard stepmother's 
voice call out: 


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'' Children ! Children ! What are you doing ? " 

Then, of course, the natural superiority of die male 
asserted itseK. For I simply left off and scowled, 
while Laura hurst out crying. 

" The little h-beast," she blubbered, " he's puttin' flies 
in the s-spider's web." 

"T'ck! t'ck! You naughty boy, Tom," said step- 
mother mildly. " Well, you mustn't fight and make all 
this to-do, anyway. Come inside and wash yourselves ; 
you'll be late for school" 

When I look back upon the memory of my stepmother; 
I am bound to acknowledge that, as stepmothers go, she 
was undeniably a success. Laura and I both rather 
liked her, but we did not, of course, appreciate at that 
time with what delicacy of feeling and adroit manage- 
ment she filled her vicarious position. She must have 
appeared to our father somewhat in the light of a 
placid harbour after a gorgeous storm. Laura and I 
had only dim recollections of our mother. I remember 
her scolding me, and then in the night she would come 
and wet my face with her tears and kisses. Laura re- 
membered more. She remembered going to the exhi- 
bition with mother, and the way that people stared at 
them both. " I'm not surprised. They looked so drab 
beside her," Laura explained. Also she remembered 
some of the songs mother used to sing, and on Sunday 
evenings curious people came in and ate and drank, and 
mother sang and played the mandolin. Some of the 
men who came were Spanish too, as mother was. 
Father tolerated them for mother's sake, but Laura 
could see he didn't like them. Father was frightfully 
English. He used at one time to travel about the world 
buying and selling horses. He met mother at a place 
called Bio. Father must have done a lot of thin^ in 
his time before he settled down to the splendid position 
he occupied when I was ten. 


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My father had a genius for enjoying life. It is a 
quality only possessed by simple people. And he was 
remarkably simple. Every little commonplace action 
throughout the day appeared to give him a quiet satis- 
faction . . . doing things properly. He enjoyed wash- 
ing^ brushing his hair, cleaning his teeth, polishing his 
brown boots — an operation which occupied him twenty 
minutes every morning and was conducted through the 
media of most elaborate accessories, like a high-church 
service; he enjoyed folding an umbrella, blowing his 
nose, opening a newspaper. Lighting a pipe was a com- 
plete ecstasy. And yet he was frugal and restrained, 
scrupulous in his dealings and direct in his actions. 
The simplicity of his outlook was emphasised by almost 
childish beliefs. He appeared to float in a mental 
archipelago studded with the little islands of prejudice 
and superstition. He would do nothing of importance 
on a Friday, or on the thirteenth of tibe month. He 
would never pass anyone on the stairs. If he spilt 
salt, he immediately threw some over his left shoulder. 
I am glad that I never remember him breaking a mir- 
ror. He would have been distracted. His justification 
for this attitude was that " you never knew." He en- 
joyed a kind of wistful reverence for the established 
thing. He believed in God in the definitely anthro- 
pomorphic sense, as a Being who, though He would not 
probably have selected the licensing trade, would have 
conducted it decently. And in his humble way he tried 
to conduct it decently himself. 

He was very regular in his habits and methodical. 
He rose at seven in the morning; went into the garden 
and took deep breaths, and indulged in a few cumbrous 
exercises. Then he lighted his pipe and polished his 


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brown boots. He breakfasted at eight, read the news- 
paper, and went for twenty minutes' walk. On his 
return he devoted the rest of the morning to attending 
to the business of the House. Book-keeping in the office 
' of the yard, interviewing spirit salesmen, checking the 
great barrels of ale delivered by enormous draymen. 
He had dinner at one o'clock punctually. After dinner 
he indulged in an hour's nap on the horsehair chair in 
the parlour upstairs. He usually spread a lace anti- 
macassar over his head to keep the flies from biting himu 
At half-past three he went out for a walk. Sometimes 
he called at places on business, but he was always at 
home at five o'clock for tea. This was our great time — 
Laura's and mine; we always had tea together, father 
and stepmother and Laura and I. Tea, of course, is 
the nicest meal in the day. There is something exciting 
about the very sound of a tea-cup touching a saucer. 
It excites me still. And then there are the round 
plates with piles of bread-and-butter, and brown cakes 
with black sultanas peeping out, and always one pot of 
jam, and sometimes crumpets. 

Ajid father was always at his best at tea-time. It was 
as though he had reserved this hour for us. He would 
call up to the play-room on the third floor, where Laura 
and I were, and in his enormous voice boom forth : 

" Children, what was it the King of North Carolina 
said to the King of South Carolina ? " 

And Latira and I, who had been coached for the part, 
would chant in unison : 

"We — want — our — TEAl" 

And stepmother would smile and say : " Oh, you 
silly things!" 

And then we raced downstairs to the parlour, and 
father would e^^press unlimited surprise that there was 
the tea all ready for us. The drawing-room and the 
parlour were large rooms and were connected by folding- 


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doors painted in two shades of green. The wood-work 
in the parlour was painted brown, and the drawing- 
lOom white and yellow. Both rooms were richly fur- 
nished with every kind of furniture in gold, walnut, 
and mahogany. It was indeed very difficult to move 
about for the furniture. Over the fireplace in the 
parlour was an enormous steel engraving representing 
" The Death of Wolfe/' On either side were cylindri- 
cal glass bowls covering a cluster of wax fruit most 
tantalisingly reaL Apart from all this, of course, we 
had a dining-room. But that was downstairs, leading 
off the kitchen. We used to have dinner and breakfast 
there, but the parlour was our favourite room, conse- 
crated to tea only. 

When we sat down, father would look very solemn, 
except for his eyes, which couldn't be, and he would 
talk and ask us impossible riddles. He had rather a 
bald head, with large, prominent grey eyes, and a deep 
chest. When he threw back his head and laughed, 
everything had to laugh with him, including people 
and furniture and even the wax fruit itself. He had 
a habit of buying us little presents, and hiding them, 
and making us look for them. He would suc^denly 

"Goodness gracious me! What's that awful thing 
growing out of the wall behind the piano ? " 

And Laura and I would rush for it. And there in- 
deed would be a huge brown-paper parcel. Feverishly 
we would break the string. Inside would be a box. 
Inside more brown paper. Then another box and more 
paper, and so on till we got down to — possibly an old 
mouse-trap. Then father would slap his leg and laugh, 
and Laura and I would pretend to be angry. But we 
should not be really angry, because we £iew by expe- 
rience that father never let us down like that. Some- 
where in a more inaccessible place would be another 


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parcel containing — a railway-station, or a splendid 

At six o'clock father's busy time would commence, for 
the bars would begin to fill, and he would be down 
there till very late at night, when they closed. I 
believe he used to do a certain amount of serving, but 
most of the time he talked to customers and attended to 
things generally. He employed all sorts of people. 
There was Mrs. Beddoes, the bar manageress, a very 
stout lady with a white-powdered face, and a kind of 
pyramid of fair gold hair kept together (or perhaps 
kept on) with bands of black velvet. There were two 
barmaids, Olive and May, both tall, both fair; Olive 
of the willowy, clinging kind, and May more rigid and 
assertive. I fell in love with May when I was eleven, 
and I used to go and peep at her through the skylight 
above the private bar. I had to get a pair of steps to 
do this and lean it against a clothes-stand in a dark 
passage. It was an adventure fraught with peril, for 
neither Laura nor I, not even stepmother, were allowed 
to go into the bars under any circumstances, and father 
was very strict about it Then there was a potman 
named Jingle. He was the object of my idolatry for 
many years. He had been a prize-fighter. He had a 
flat, shapeless face and little twinkly eyes. He would 
often play with Laura and me in the garden and tell 
us thrilling stories of his victories in the ring. He 
must have been the greatest fighter who ever lived. In 
any case, he never told us of any occasion when he had 
been defeated. And he was so good-tempered and gen- 
tle. Of course we were imder no delusion as to the 
principal reason of his employment; neither was he. 
There was very, very seldom any trouble in " The 
Duchess of Pless"; father was far too strict. He 
established a kind of code which had to be observed. 
No one was served who gave the slightest sign of having 


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had too much, and, indeed, those who gave no sign were 
limited in the amount they were allowed to consume 
in one evening. He boasted that he only supplied the 
best, and that in limited quantities. He would not 
allow bad language, and though he was fond of horse- 
racing and often went to the races, he would not allow 
betting or book-making on the premises. I believe 
" The Duchess of Pless " used to be known in the neigh- 
bourhood at one time as " Old Purbeck's Paradise." 
I know a lot of the men used to laugh at him and call 
him a crank ; nevertheless, he sustained a reputation for 
honesty and incorruptibility, and was held in great 
respect in the neighbourhood. I have heard him say 
on more than one occasion: "I am a fully-licensed 
man, sir. It is something to be proud of. It entails 
responsibilities as well as privileges. I have been a 
fully-licensed man for seventeen years. It's a trade, 
like any other trade, serving a public purpose, and liable 
to abuse. I hope I have always conducted it decently.*' 

If any untoward incident did occur to jar this credit- 
able programme, any unseemly attempt to abuse the 
privileges of his house, my father would bring his fist 
down on the mahogany bar and in his enormous voice 
cry out: 

*^ Silence, gentlemen ! " 

If this were not sufficient, he would bring his fist 
^own again, and call: 


When our potman appeared, grinning and amiable 
as ever, father, his eyes blazing with anger, would point 
to some individual and say: 

"That man!" 

And Jingle, leering pleasantly, with his long arms 
swinging below his knees, would sidle up and say: 

" Come on, my lad ! " 

They very seldom showed fight They hardly seemed 


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to have time to. Jingle was like the spider, so won- 
derfully equipped. He did not appear to hurt them. 
He seemed to twist them round and tie them up, and 
then gently shoot them into the st;*eet. On two occa- 
sions I had the great privilege of observing this opera- 
tion from my vantage-point in the dark passage. Eor 
it occurred at the time when I was spending restless 
nights on account of May. 


In addition to Jingle, our establishnfftut consisted of 
a cellarman named Waynes, a quite insignificant indi- 
vidual ; a large and flabby-faced cook called Grace, who 
whenever I entered the kitchen was always either eating 
or shedding tears on a letter she had either just received 
or just written. She was a good cook, with a limited 
repertoire. I remember that for years she used to make 
us what she called a "Zulu pudding." It is curious 
that, as we had it nearly every day, I cannot remember 
what the pudding was like. The title must have been 
more impressive than the pudding itself. I remember 
her discussing the meals for the day with stepmother, 
and with a rolling-pin pressed into her left cheek, say- 
ing in her tearful voice : " Well, what do you say to 
a nice Zulu pudding ? " 

It was, of course, inevitable that in the end Laura 
and I always referred to her as " the Zulu pudding." 
Various housemaids came and went, stole things, quar- 
relled with Mrs. Beddoes, irritated father to distraction 
— he hated fresh people and innovations — tried to 
make love to my adored Jingle, with varying degrees 
of success, and eventually vanished into the Ewigkeit 
I hope in any case that I have impressed you with the 
fact that we were people of considerable importance and 
prominence in Camden Town at that time; that our 


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establishment was no ordinary establishment; that 
Laura and I were reared in an exceptional atmosphere 
of luxury and refinement and wealtL We realised 
our position more fully when we first began to attend 
the Grammar School. Some of the other children 
were dressed almost as well as we, if not so expen- 
sively ; but we soon learned from little things that were 
said that their home-life conditions were quite different. 
Very few of them had cake and jam for tea, very few 
of them had a parlour as well as a drawing-room, and 
a dining-room and a play-room. The majority of them 
only had one "general," and even the Beldams, whose 
father was a solicitor, had to acknowledge that they 
only had a cook and a housemaid. They didn't keep 
any barmaids or prize-fighters at all. None of the 
others were taken to a hox at the pantomime at Christ- 
mas ; none of the others were given such costly presents. 
Laura was the only girl who had private lessons on the 
piano from a gentleman who wore a tail-coat and spats, 
and who came to our house at half-past six on two 
evenings in the week. 

Laura in those days was something of " a cure " — 
as stepmother described her. There was certainly noth- 
ing about her to denote the kind of woman she was to 
develop into later on. She was very dark, queer, elfin- 
esque, with a broad, rather plain face and eyes remark- 
ably wide apart. She was tall for her age, with skinny 
legs and very quick movements. In fact, quickness 
was her principal characteristic. She was almost in- 
coherently quick in speech, quick to grasp situations, 
and very quick-tempered. She would be sweet, com- 
panionable, and delightful one minute, and then some- 
thing would happen, and her eyes would blaze and her 
nostrils quiver. She would cry, or fume, or sulk, till 
suddenly another wind would blow it all away. 

There was no love lost between Laura and the rather 


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rigid, well-groomed young man who came to give her 
music-lessons. He expressed the opinion to father that 
Laura had great talent, but he never seemed to en- 
courage it He smiled superciliously when she played, 
and when she had finished he purred. Laura always 
swore that he purred. He told her when she played 
wrong notes, and sometimes he played the piece to her 
himself. And Laura informed me: 

" When he plays, all I can think of is pomade." 
I mooted a scheme by which we should lure him out 
into the yard one evening and then get Jingle to man- 
handle him. " Squeeze some of the oil out of him." 
Laura's eyes brightened at the suggestion. But we 
could never get Jingle to fall in with our plan, and 
when I taunted him with being afraid of the music- 
teacher, and offered him my pocket-money for three 
weeks ahead, he only laughed. 


The feud between Laura and myself over the ques- 
tion of the spiders lasted some days. It was not till 
the second day that we could even discuss the matter 
coherently. Then, when Laura was in bed, and I had 
come in to fetch a clean collar for the morning (for 
some reason or other my collars and handkerchiefs were 
always kept in her room), she suddenly said: 

" Why did you do it ? " 


" Putting the flies in the spider's web." 

" P'saugh ! It's nothing ! It's quite natural. The 
spider would get them anyway." 

" It isn't natural. It's only natural when he catches 
them himself." 

*' But this one hadn't got a fly." 

" Well, it was no business of yours." 


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I then had a brilliant inspiration. 

" What do you think's the worst ? '' I said. " To 
starve to death slowly, or to be killed quickly ? " 


" It's just as cruel to starve the spider as to kill the 
fly. A fly's no good anyway." 

" You -don't know anything about it** 

" Not only that : Mr. Tilden, our mathematical 
master, told us that a spider isn't really cruel. When 
he catches a fly he gives it a bite which 'sphyxiates it 
for forty-eight hours. So that by the time it comes-to, 
it's dead!" 

" Rubbish ! How can it come-to, if it's dead ? " 

" It depends upon whether the spider has eaten it or 
not. Of course, if he's eaten it, all its worries are 

Laura sat up in bed. I could see her dark eyes peer^ 
ing at me across the room. 

" Suppose," she said breathlessly, " he's only partly 
eaten it ! " 

" Then," I answered, " it doesn't come-to ; it only 
comes one." 

Having uttered this brilliant and cynical witticism, 
I thought it advisable to dash from the room. 

Three mornings later, when I went into the garden, 
I found Laura bending over a small bush. She was 
so absorbed she did not hear me approach. 

"What's up?" I asked. 

" He's turning it over and over and biting it," she 
said huskily. " He's killing it, and — I threw it in ! " 

"Well, that's all right." 

She turned away, and her face was quite colourless. 
Her hands were clenched. 

"What's the matter?" I asked. 

"I feel sick." 

" Well, go and be sick." 


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Then Laura rushed at me again and hit uiy ear. 

Yon would hardly believe it, but the next morning 
I found Laura there again. She had caught and put 
in a daddy-long-legs and two flies. 

So, you see, when I was only ten years old, I knew all 
about women. 

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LIFE in my father's house was rich and crowded. 
Every hour there was movement, anticipation, 
Ji colour. I had my niches and shrines, and 
the ambit of my existence was fringed with breathless 
romance. Laura and I, although we fought and quar^ 
relied, were intensely intimate. Laura had the faculty 
of exciting me. When she entered the room I waa 
conscious of warm and brilliant colour, although she 
might be wearing a black frock and her face might be 
pale. I loved to watch her, and stepmother, and my 
father, and all the busy people coming and going. 
They had so much to give me. Their experiences 
peeped at me across rose-coloured spaces. The garden, 
the spiders, the tool-shed. Jingle, the great brewers' drays 
in the yard, stepmother carrying up a pile of clean 
linen, Laura practising scales, a corner of the play- 
room with the pale sun making patterns on the floor, 
dinner and the great dish-covers, father rather flustered 
and in a hurry . . . someone coming in to ask a ques- 
tion, Grace singing in the kitchen, school again . . . 
bewildering but rather adventurous, something new 
always happening. Home to tea, Laura with a washed 
face, positively shining. Stepmother a little agitated, 
sonxe people coming in to supper — the Mowlams. 
Pa, ma, and Evie — very old friends; perhaps Uncle 
A terrible man, Unde Stephen. I dreaded him and 


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worshipped him. He was father's brother, but not a 
scrap like father. He was tall, wiry, hard. He had 
almost white hair and a dark moustache, possibly dyed ; 
a clean-cut, bony face, and he wore circular-rimmed 
glasses, which gave him a fierce, concentrated expres- 
sion. He did dumb-bells, and punched a ball, and shot 
pigeons. He lived at Netting Hill and kept a large 
stationer's shop. But all his instincts were towards 
sport and keeping fit. 

He had a curious-shaped piece of land at the back 
of his house, which he had completely netted in so 
that he could have a cricket-practice pitch. It was a 
narrow strip, broken half-way by the projection of a 
railway funnel. There was no grass on it. It was 
just mud. Every week or so he made me go out 
and play cricket with him. I dreaded it, but I was 
too frightened to refuse. I could never make up my 
mind which terrified me most, his bowling or his 
batting. He bowled frightfully fast. He took a long 
run, but owing to the projection of the funnel you 
couldn't see him when he started, but you heard him. 
Suddenly he appeared round the bend, rushing at you 
at a fearful rate, his eyes blazing, and as he delivered 
this ball he emitted a kind of growl like a savage dog. 
The ball always seemed to come straight at my head 
or legs. And if I drew back an inch he bawled out: 
" Stand up to 'em, boy ! Stand up to 'em ! " 
When he batted it was no better. He used to drive 
the ball straight back at me with terrific force, and it 
seemed impossible to escape in that netted-in cage. 
I used to try and bowl wides so that he couldn't get 
at them, but he nearly always did, and if they didn't 
come straight back and hit me on the chest, they flew 
all round the netting, struck a wall somewhere, and 
eventually caught me on the back of the head. While 
I was rubbing myself he would exclaim: 




'' Pitch 'em up, boy ! Pitch 'em up I " 
I used to return home covered with cuts and bruises. 
I felt lucky to escape with my life. 


Of course Laura soon discovered my post of observa- 
tion in the passage, where we could look into the 
private bar, but she never found it so absorbing as 
I did. She got impatient. The fair halo above the 
head of May gave her no satisfaction. The glittering 
mahogany and glass, the cunning arrangement of taps 
and levers and sinks stirred no response in her bosom. 
The conversation of the brilliant personalities who came 
to worship at the shrine of good-fellowship left her 
cold. But these things stirred me profoundly. In 
the first place, I realised that the social system was 
divided into three definite classes — the lower, the mid- 
dle, and the upper. It must be so, for as on the 
railway there is a first, second, and third class, so in 
my father's house there was a public, a private, and 
a saloon bar. By going back into a passage you could 
get into either, but once established there you were 
completely cut off from the other two. You could 
sometimes observe or be observed by them, but thanks 
to the ingenious scheme of little glass shutters you 
CQuld always shut off anyone's view of you. Presum- 
ably the manners and customs of the human species 
are regulated in the same way. The bishop and the 
bargee, the wife of the bishop and the wife of the 
bargee, all have their little glass shutters, although, 
like the other animals, they come to the same stream 
to drink at sundown. I observed, moreover, that the 
bars were places of spiritual mystery. Curious little 
movements and cross-currents, a kind of masonry, were 


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always in evidence. Men came in in groups, and whis- 
pered together. There was a deliberate telepathic con- 
nection with certain units and the gods and goddesses 
on the other side of the bar. A corpulent, red-faced 
individual would pant his way in and hand a brown- 
paper parcel across to Olive, remarking wheezily: 

" Three-thirty." 

Olive would take the parcel without the slightest 
evidence of understanding, and reply : 

"AH right, Charlie.'' 

He would then toddle out, but at the door he would 
perhaps meet another very similar person. Without 
any word of greeting they would return to the bar, 
and the second man would say: 

" A bass and a mild-and-bitter, Olive.'' 

They would drink their refreshment as though it 
were positively distasteful, fiddling about with their 
moustaches to keep them out of the beer. Then the 
first man would tap the other on the upper expanse of 
his stomach, and whisper. The second would twirl 
his dripping moustache, and look utterly lugubrious. 
At last he would reply in a thick voice : 

" Nothing is like it used to be." 

This would seem to satisfy the other man, and he 
would hand him an envelope and they would go out. 
I observed that this freemasonry pervaded the day, but 
late in the evening it spread out into open discussion 
and broad generalities. Men talked eloquently and 
forcibly about politics, trade, and fighting. As the hour 
grew late their voices appeared to merge into a long, 
continuous drone, the art of listening • vanished, the 
lower, middle, and upper classes vanished ; it was just 
one voice, like the voice of a drowning man a long 
way off, comfortably indifferent to his fate. 

Perhaps I was sleepy on these occasions. I ought to 
have been in bed, but the rich variety of this life fas- 


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cinited me, and there was always a chance of father 
calling out: 

" Now, gentlemen ; order, please ! *' Or even more 
pertinently : 

'' Jingle!" 

It was always satisfying to observe the homage paid 
to father. The gentlemen invariably called him *^ Mr. 
Purbeck, sir," and they always listened to him as he 
leaned across the bar and emphasised some point by 
beating the air with his fat first finger. 

Mrs. Beddoes was called Mrs. Beddoes, although I 
once heard a young man refer to her as Mrs. Bed-fellows. 
Olive and May were called a variety of nicknames, 
too bewildering to remember. May was my adored 
ones pert, self-contained, and, alas! inaccessible to me 
and too accessible to everyone else. The men all adored 
her, and she was just as pleasant to the lower and 
middle classes as she was to the upper. 

This is where Olive differed perceptibly. Her bright, 
queer, expressionless eyes always seemed to float above 
the heads of the customers and to be fixed upon the 
entrance door of the saloon bar. There was something 
tragic, provocative, expectant about her. She served 
the upper classes watchfully, the middle classes disdain- 
fully, and the lower classes with unconcealed disgust. 


The evenings which the Mowlams spent with us were 
always rather starched and unsatisfactory. They were 
special friends of stepmother, and Laura and I could 
never see what she could find in thenu Mr. Mowlam 
had some sort of position in a piano-factory in Kentish 
Town. He was a peculiarly disappointing man. He 
had a really beautiful head, with snow-white hair. A 
fine, classical head, with sharp features and clear grey 


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eyes, and yet I really think he was one o( the most 
stupid men I have ever met. I could never account 
for him at all. He had all the presence of an evan- 
gelist, a reformer, a seer. And yet the only thing he 
was really interested in was pedigree rabbits. He 
kept a lot of these ridiculous animals in hutches made 
out of packing-cases in a yard in Kentish Town, and 
he used to loan them out for breeding purposes. At 
supper time he would regale us with tedious and un- 
necessary details about the profits derived from the 
amours of the all-too-fertile does, or the dubious history 
of some black buck called Dodo. On any other subject 
he leered knowingly and clicked his tongue, suggesting 
that he knew all about it, but he wasn't going to say. 

Mrs. Mowlam was a big woman, very broad and 
heavily-built. She had a kind, motherly face, and 
would have been quite pleasant if she had not been so 
pliable with regard to persuasion to song. She had no 
great opinion of her voice, and indeed she had no cause 
to have. It was always Mr. Mowlaift who said : 

"N"ow, Annie, give us a song." 

And stepmother always kindly added: 

" Yes, Annie, do.'' 

Annie did not really want to sing, and no one* in 
the room really wanted to hear her. Looking back 
on it, one realises that the whole thing could easily 
have been avoided, which simply goes to emphasise the 
extraordinary stupidity of Mr. Mowlam. She had a 
tiny little high, plaintive voice, and always sang little 
ballads with words of this description: 

"Fm a merry little fly, 

Stranger quite to care aad sorrow. 

As my liie is short, I try 

Every hour fresh bliss to borrow." 

Even father revolted at the physical inappropriate- 
ness of this song, and remarked one morning at oreak- 


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fast that the singer was more like "a merry little 
hippopotamus" — a remark which caused Laura and 
me to be late for school, but which nevertheless bright- 
ened the day considerably. It cannot be said that 
Evie Mowlam was a friend of ours, either. She was 
in the early thirties, and she patronised us. The 
upper part of her face was almost as beautiful as her 
father's, clear, transparent, and sensitively modelled. 
Her nose was well shaped and rather large, and then 
her chin seemed to race away from the whole prop- 
osition and leave a row of splendid teeth dangling 
in the air. As Laura said, "She never seems to 
be not grinning." She was overpoweringly affection- 
ate, vehement about trifles, discursive, and uncon- 

Laura and I were perhaps a little prejudiced about 
Mrs. Mowlam's singing, because it was apt to clash with 
our own performances. For you must know that we 
were both at the reciting age, and we required even less 
persuasion than our lady visitpr. I specialised in 
Shakespeare, and squeezed in fiefween the furniture, 
which was always impeding my gestures, I used to 
recite the quarrel scene between Brutus and Cassius, 
Mark Antony's oration over the body of Casar, and 
Hamlet's monologue on death. Laura considered 
Shakespeare hackneyed, but she also espoused the tragic 
muse. She let herself on on Eugene Aram, Curfew 
Shall Not Ring To-night, and a piece which she con- 
sidered her masterpie<}e, which began, " I am not mad 1 
I am not mad ! " W^ once attempted Hubert and Ar- 
thur together, but found it quite impossible, because a 
point would come when, catching each other's eye, 
one of us would laugh. It seemed quite easy to be 
Hamlet or Csesar all on one's own, but to stand there 
by the folding-doors and have Laura in a plaid skirt, 
with the familiar pigtail tied in a red bow, suddenly 


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turn to me and say : " Good morrow, little Prince ! " 
was too much for anyone. 

It is doubtful whether the Mowlams derived any en- 
joyment from our performances, any more than we 
did from Mrs, Mowlam's singing, but they were decently 
polite. It was father who was the stupid one in this 
case. He would say: 

"Now, Laura, what's it to be? This way for the 
early doors! Annie, come and sit here in the stalls 
with me. Move up, Fred. Now then, who's going to 
begin? Tom?" 

And he would commence clapping just like people do 
in a theatre. And Laura and I would flush with ex- 
citement, and push each other about. And there is no 
doubt that father enjoyed us enormously. I watched 
his face whilst Laura was performing. He was really 
feeling it all. His eyes were glued upon her, his lips 
mutely responding to the action of hers. When we had 
.finished he would turn to the others and say: 

" By Jove ! Did you ever hear anything like it ? " 

It is very interesting, this un-analytical admiration 
that the majority of parents have for the performances 
of their children. It must be some sort of by-product 
of the instinct of self-preservation. I am quite con- 
vinced that neither Laura nor I had any but the most 
ordinary talent for reciting, and yet father — who was 
not in other ways an uncritical man — seemed to be 
completely mesmerised by our performances. He was 
amazed, entranced, and went about telling everyone of 
the riot of genius he had helped to bring into the world. 
And naturally we both believed it. 


It was father who eventually discovered me peeping 
through the skylight into the bars. He said : 


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" What are you doing there, Tom ? " 

I looked foolish, and replied : 

" Oh, just having a look through." 

Eor a moment he flushed angrily; then he came up 
and took the steps away. He said nothing, but I saw 
him standing there with a curious, perplexed expression 
on his face, as though some entirely novel aspect of 
life had been presented to him. For some time after 
that I avoided the passage ; a rich corner of my life was 
cut out On the stairs I could hear the drone of the 
voices, but I dare not resume my observations. And 
then there occurred a most unfortunate event. I had 
gone to bed. It was Saturday night; no school to- 
morrow. I was very excited, and I could not sleep. 
After a time I realised that father would be safely down- 
stairs, serving. Saturday was always a busy night. I 
crept downstairs and fetched the steps from a lavatory 
where I knew father had put them. Very gingerly I 
opened them out and mounted them. The bars were 
crowded. One could hear the snap, snap, snap of the 
brass cranks where May was drawing off glasses of beer. 
Everyone was serving as rapidly as possible, the aii*%as 
blue with tobacco-smoke. Above the din of conversation 
could be heard the constant jingle of coins and people 
tapping on the counter and calling out for drinks. It 
was all very exciting. Just below my window was a 
kind of terrace of bottles. Occasionally one of the 
servers made a dash towards it and I had to be careful 
to duck out of sight. I do not know how long I lurked 
there, watching and listening to this engaging drama, 
where all the actors seemed entrusted with important 
parts, but the most important part — the actor-manager 
— was obviously my father. It was he whose individ- 
uality seemed to fill the stage, and I felt very proud 
. . . "Purbeck's Paradise." 

Someone in the saloon bar — among the aristocracy 


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— was raising his voice in a thick rumble. Quite 
clearly above lie general confusion I heard a long string 
of unprintable oaths. Immediately there came a crash 
upon the counter which cut the whole flow of talk in 
two. There was a dead silence, and then the thunder 
of my father's voice : 

"Now then, there! That will do. Hi! you, clear 
out of the bar ! " 

The drama was id movement. The actors were snap- 
ping up their cues. The old emotions were let loose. 
The chorus was resumed, but more indistinctly. The 
ijnportant action of the piece was yet to be developed. 
Alas ! from my position I could not see the villain, the 
rumbler, the outcast of the decencies. But I could hear 
a kind of dim, subdued counter-rumble, and the hissed 
exhortations of his supporters, and I could see the hero 
glowering across the bar, gloriously commanding. And 
in the background, grinning as usual, and wiping his 
hands upon a towel, the alert and sinuous Jingle. It 
was the briefest of comedies. The waves of sound re- 
sumed thojr normal roar. The partisans of disrup- 
tion apparently chose the wiser course, and hustled their 
champion from the lists. The hero enjoyed a momen- 
tary intoxication of having " gripped them " on an 
opening night to a full house. Then, swinging on his 
heel, he turned to the terrace to collect a bottle. It was 
not where he expected. His face was still flushed with 
anger. He glanced up suddenly and loohed right into, 
my eyes! 

I darted back, but I knew I had been too late, I 
scrambled down the steps and tried to carry them away. 
A sudden fear of my father came over me. I was in 
a frenzy to escape. I had a momentary prevision that 
he would strike me, and he had never struck me . . . 
never, never. And if he did, I should be so ashamed. 
But he was angry. I had never seen him so angry. 


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I felt the strong, firm grip of his hand on the upper 
part of my arm. The steps were taken from me. I 
wanted to cry, and I could not speak. At the end of 
the passage was a dim hall, illuminated by one gas- 
burner. I remember noticing a dingy print of Queen 
Victoria in a lace cap, a relentless presentation of the 
proprieties. My father was carrying the steps away. 
His voice seemed strained and distant. 

" I told you not to do that, Tom." 

I shivered against the wall, not knowing how to act. 
Suddenly he put the steps down, and came over to me 
and gripped my shoulder. 

" I don't want you to do that, boy." 

That was all he said. It was not an order, and cer- 
tainly not a menace. It was husky, tearful, almost 
despairing. I whispered breathlessly: ^'AU right," 
and went upstairs. As I turned the corner I saw his 
profile, the steps held in front of him. He looked tired, 
pathetic, curiously alone. I wanted to go back and ask 
his pardon, but I could not bring myself to do it. 
When I got into bed I lay awake staring at the dark- 
ness, and after a time I cried a little, because my father 
was lonely. He was alone, and I was alone. Every- 
body. ... I could go in and see Laura, but she would 
not understand. She, too, is alone. How lonely every- 
one is! All separately walking along in the darkness 
. . . alone, alone, alone^ 

Someone is tapping on my door. Father? No, of 
course that is Laura. She always taps like that. She 
comes in ghost-like — but abrupt. That is like Laura 
— an abrupt ghost. Some new excitement. What does 
she want? 


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She sits on my bed and dangles her legs. 

" Tom ! '^ mysteriously and portentously. " Pve just 
got an awful idea ! " 

"What is it?" 

" Eve is like a white rabbit" 


" No. Think of her. The way she looks and eats. 
It stands to reason. If a man is always thinking about 
white rabbits, he has a daughter like one. They're 
teaching us that now at school. It's frightfully inter- 
esting. I've forgotten what they call it" 

"Oh, go to bed!" 


Laura slaps me and goes out. What a fool she is! 
An abrupt, foolish gjiost wandering through the night 
— alone. 

Glorious daylight dispels all these visions. Every- 
thing is just the same. The smell of coffee and bacon; 
father vigorously polishing his brown boots in the yard, 
cheerful and friendly. The Sunday newspapers folded 
neatly on the white cloth. Ming — our tabby — 
curled up on the window-sill, her paws curved inwards 
and her narrow slits of eyes expressing furtive ecstasy. 

Strange that the important news should come to me 
three weeks later from the mouth of my Uncle Stephen. 
At the end of one of our dreaded games of cricket, he 
said suddenly: 

" Well, my lad, so you're going to boarding-school ! " 

I was not going to be such a fool as to profess ignor- 
ance. He massaged his nostrils vigorously and added : 

"You'll have to stand up to them there. You de- 
velop that off-drive and you'll be all right." 

Just as I was leaving, he stopped me and said : 
" When you first go to school, Tom, the boys will all 
ask you what your father is. You take my advice and 


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say he's an hotel proprietor. Don't tell them he's a 

Anyone who has been to a public school will appre- 
ciate the almost incalculable value of Uncle Stephen's 


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THE four and a half years which I spent at 
Leydhurst College was an experience which 
appears now to be completely divorced from 
all association with the rest of my life. While it lasted 
it seemed a self-contained eternity. When it was over, 
it dwindled to a brief, incisive episode, a curious little 
boxed-in paraphrase of life. Whereas in my father's 
house all was movement and rich colour, at Leydhurst 
everything was static and of only one colour, a cold, 
bright, sunny yellow. Everything appeared determined 
beforehand, fixed and finished. One had to get into it, 
adapt oneself ; it never came out to help one. There was 
nothing you could do for which there was not a formula, 
a code, a standard, or a cure. Cut off from the rest 
of the world by fields and hedges, it aped the manner- 
isms of a limited monarchy without a foreign policy. 
It had a domestic policy — of an unrelenting, reaction- 
ary kind — and it had its courts of justice, its police, 
its pomp, its self-satisfied egregiousness o^ citizenship, 
its state religion, and its unbreakable tradition of man- 
ners. Almost at once, too, I discovered that it had its 
three bars. This fact surprised me, for I had been 
informed so often that " all that sort of nonsense gets 
knocked out of a boy in a public school." I found just 
the contrary to be the case. "All that sort of non- 
sense'' is openly encouraged by the boys themselves, 
by the masters, and by the Procrustean laws. A boy is 



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commonly written down "a cad," not for the reason 
of any moral, physical, or intellectual lapse, but because 
some slip in the conventions betrays the fact that he has 
strayed into the saloon bar, whereas his proper place 
is the public bar. It may be through wearing the 
wrong-shaped collar, or brushing his hair in an unusual 
manner, or failing to catch the exact intonation of the 
popular accent, or some intangible abuse of fashion ; but 
whatever it is, the law is inexorable. Moreover, 
whereas in my father's house the laws of the bars were 
liberal in their construction, and elastic in their inter- 
pretation, at Leydhurst they were enforced with acid 
cruelty. God never invented anything crueller or more 
primitive than the average public-school boy. He has 
not the merciful 'sphyxiating bite of the spider, but he 
has all the luxurious cruelties of a cat. He enjoys 
torturing his victim. He finds out all the raw edges 
of its sensibility and he nags away at them. 

He is taught to believe that his school stands for 
something — something connected vaguely with the 
glory of England, the singing of " Onward, Christian 
Soldiers," and the almost sublime ambition to come out 
top of the cricket averages. For the rest, everything 
is futile and effeminate, consequently to be tortured and 
ragged out of existence. 

His preceptors are always dinning into his ears 
phrases about honour, loyalty, independence, and truth. 
He considers honour an affair of sticking up for the 
people in his own bar ; he feels loyalty to be safe with 
the vision of his father going to the city in a top-hat 
and paying his rates and taxes; he mistakes egoism 
for independence, and he has no use at all for truth. 
Ambition is satisfied by being like everybody else, only 
more so. 

At Leydhurst most of the boys were what I might call 
*^ private bar " boys, but there were quite a good few 


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saloons^ and a generous sprinkling of the ^unspeakable 
"publics," always referred to as cads. There was 
only one possible loophole for the cad to escape into 
the more select bars, and that was by virtue of his 
musctes. A real "blood" was tolerated anywhere, 
partly through the fear which he inspired and partly 
through the awe and respect which a public performer 
always commands^ be he an actor or a football-blue. 


I do not propose to enlarge upon the impressions of 
my school-life, but I must pay a handsome tribute to 
the sagacity of Uncle Stephen in giving me the advice 
he did on the eve of my departure. 

I was one of about fifteen new boys, and during the 
first week we were all subjected to an interminable 
cross-examination. Every old boy, bigger than one- 
self, came up to one and said, " What's your name ? " 
and then, " What's your father ? " and usually a string 
of other questions. If the boy was smaller than you, 
you naturally told him to go to hell, but if he was bigger, 
you either had to answer or get your head clumped, or 
involve yourself in unknown terrors in the days to come. 
The questions were designed primarily to discover which 
bar yoii aspired to. I must say at^once that my reply 
of " an hotel proprietor " was entirely satisfactory. I 
realised later on how valuable this answer was, for 
another new boy came whose father was a publican, 
and he said so. The gibes and general contumely which 
this brought upon his head overwhelmed him for the 
rest of his school-days. He was flung mercilessly into 
the most sawdusty comer of the public bar, labelled 
"that little cad Tompkins," and subjected to continu- 
ous ironic questionings about the price of gin. 

Somehow the term "an hotel proprietor" bore an 


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entirely different complexion. My father might only 
be a shareholder in one of those big hotels on the Em- 
bankment^ or he might own one of the sunny-terraced 
places on the south coast. Anyway, a proprietor only 
proprieted. He didn't even necessarily work. He 
must attend board meetings in a top-hat. He might 
be rich. 

I fpund myself quite easily in the saloon bar, the 
more especially as I was fitted out with the best of 
clothing, and father kept me liberally supplied with 

Nevertheless, the whole of my first term was a tor- 
ture. I was utterly wretched and homesick. I yearned 
for Laura and stepmother. How ghastly is all this 
isolating of the sexes. The army, the navy, and the 
schools . . • they all have that bleak unreality of Leyd- 
hurst. Men and women, boys and girls, they should 
always be accessible to each other. Women are no bet- 
ter or worse than men, but they shroud them with their 
unfathomable mysteries. The design included them, 
and when they are left out the pattern of everything 
becomes distorted. A community of isolated men pur- 
sues the chimera of qualities which it terms — manli- 
ness, a quality which has nothing to recommend it at 
all. And so it forms false standards, puffs out its 
chest, bullies, conspires, hates, and makes wars, and 
panders to its stultified licentiousness. 

The limited monarch who ruled over this establish- 
ment was an individual as far removed from my con- 
ception of a satisfactory social being as anything I had 
ever seen. He was intensely affable and patronising. 
A thin, elderly man, with a refined narrow face, al- 
ways smiling and anxious. He had taken various de- 
grees at Cambridge, including that of Doctor of Divin- 
ity. His smile was a sickly, defensive posture without 
any sympathetic appeal. It appeared to be the nervous 


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outcome of his anxiety to impress the school trustees 
that he was observing the orthodox conditions of his 
appointment; towards the masters an expression of 
the kindly good-humour in which he took his position in 
this third-rate school vhen his talents obviously were 
worthy of a nobler institution ; towards the boys the ex- 
pression of a super-saloon-bar lounger who is rather 
ashamed of being seen there^ and suddenly catches the 
eye of the small boy who takes home his landlady's 
washing. The interminable services in the chapel nearly 
drove me distracted. Everything was droned, intoned, 
and conducted on the line of least resistance. The 
fat mathematical master talking sleepily about the an- 
ger of God . . . someone's turn to read the Lessons 
— old James, the "Stinks" master, snuffily spouting 
• . . as though he were quoting from a seed catalogue. 
No one convinced about anything, everyone doing it 
because the barbarian festival is an interesting heritage 
that every well-conducted limited monarchy ought to 
retain. " Am I mad ? Or are they all mad ? " would 
sometimes flash through my mind. Then Mr. Speen 
up in the organ-loft would pull out a stop, and the 
school would really let itself go. 

" Onward, Christian sol-hol-ol-jer-ers, 

Marching as to er-war-er, 
With the cross of Jee-zus 

Going on before-er.*' 

This appalling tune can only appeal to the worst pas- 
sions of the mob. It is perverted romanticism. I 
could see its effect on the faces of the boys. I knew its 
effect upon myself. We loved it while it lasted. It 
intoxicated me with thoughts of Laura, the gay lights 
in my father's saloon . . . the world before me, with 
its doors to all the mysteries unopened. Savage im- 
pnlsea stirred in me, an indolent condensation of the 


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senses. I felt gloriously self-centred^ important^ supe- 
rior. But how slowly it all movedl Would the term 
never end? If only I weren't a new boy! 


The Easter vacation was the briefest, but oh, how 
glorious and free 1 How I envied Laura, now a student 
at the Eoyal Academy of Music in Tenterden Street. 
How full and thrilling her life appeared! Growing 
up . . . her long legs filling out, her leather music- 
case, her pigtail caught up and tied with a red bow 
on the nape of her neck, her checks fuller and fatter, 
her eyes more animated than ever ; frightfully busy and 
consumed with the important development of her career. 
Yes, career ! . . . career, that was Laura's new magnet. 
Wonderful stories about professors and fellow-students, 
and playing at "the Fortnightlies " ... the import- 
ance of it all, overpowering. And her freedom of move- 
ment, her dazzling freedom of choosing ribbons and 
selecting stockings, no walls of Jericho to fall on her if 
she blew the wrong blast on the trumpet. And people, 
always fresh and interesting people, passing through her 
life, touching her, surprising her and passing on. And 
my father, childishly glad to have me home, pretending 
not to be proud to have a public-school boy for a son. 
And in the afternoon I walk with him (an innovation 
this), and the streets are full of hansom-cabs, and bi- 
cycles, and gloriously beautiful women, and I am again 
in touch with the eternal verities. Every woman I meet 
appears to contain the embryo of an entirely new set of 
human experiences. I, too, am growing up. Leyd- 
hurst is forgotten. Suddenly the deep voice of my 
father says: 

" Are you happy at school, Tom ? " 

He does not look at me, and we march stolidly along. 


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" Eather," I reply, and I realise that this is one of 
the first effects of my immersion into the Ledyhurst prin- 
ciple of " manliness." There must be something in a 
system which inspires one to lie so cheerfully. Then 
there comes a curious, eerie, uncomfortable suspicion 
creeping up my spine. It concerns my father. I'm not 
sure that he would fit into the Leydhurst scheme of 
things. If he came down on Speech Day, what would 
the boys think of him? It had never occurred to me 
before to doubt my father. He is just himself. They 
could never appreciate all the fine shades of his charac- 
ter. His sense of honour, his loyalty, his independence, 
his truthfulness. He might wear the wrong clothes! he 
might drop an h or b. g! or he might say something 
which showed that he was not an hotel proprietor, but a 
publican ! He might come down in brown gaiters and 
square-toed boots ! Appalling ! I began to realise that 
Leydhurst was casting its spell over me. 


Indeed, it did not take long for this metamorphosis to 
take place. In the course of a few terms I was as much 
of a prig as the best of them. I was as securely tied up 
as the daddy-long-legs in the spider's web. I wrote a 
lying letter to my father persuading him not to come 
down on Speech Day, although I was yearning to see 
him. I gave some rambling reason; I forget exactly 
what it was. The summer term slipped by fairly 
pleasantly. There was sunshine and cricket, and I had 
learnt from Uncle Stephen to ^^ stand up to 'em." I 
made facile friendships, learnt how to avoid being 
bullied, discovered a soul in an assistant master, and was 
a popular figure in the tuck-shop, being always in a posi- 
tion to stand treat. 

During the whole of my four and a half years the 


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Head only spoke to me once — apart from the usual 
business of scholastic life. On that occasion I was 
standing in the corridor of the quadrangle^ and he came 
past. He glanced at me and smiled pleasantly, and 


It struck me at the time as being very decent of the 
old chap. It implied that he recognised me and did 
not take me for Simpkins junior, also that I was not 
doin^ anything at the moment to annoy him, like stand- 
ing on my head or putting out my tongue. But when I 
look back upon it, it does not impress me as suggesting 
excessive interest, when I realise that it represents the 
complete record of our intercourse. 

But there was a second master, who for a long time 
was my form-master, who was of a more sympathetic 
disposition. Like most of the other masters, he rang 
the changes on tweed suits and the cloth of the Church. 
— the Reverend James Parke Tidsall. He was a 
middle-aged man with a laboriously over-modelled face, 
sallow in colour. It seemed to be all lumps and projec- 
tions. He looked like a man who had suffered untold 
anguish and lived through it, or untold temptations and 
mastered them; and every time he triumphed in this 
way a piece of his face stuck out further. In the process 
his eyes had been left right back in his head, peering 
through his shaggy eyebrows like those of a bear in a 
cage. But they were kindly, penetrating, interested. 

He ignored me for two terms, and then one day some- 
thing I said in class seemed to amuse him. I was 
bidden to tea. He had a pleasant, ironic way of inviting 
your opinion upon some vast generality, as though he 
were trying to extract some measure of relief from the 
tedious routine of school-life. He would say : 

"Well, Purbeck, what do you make of life?" or 


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"Now, Purbeck, if you were in power, tell me what 
your foreign policy would be ? " 

He asked me endless and intimate questions about my 
home-life, beginning with the inevitable: 

" Tell me, Purbeck, what is your father ? " 

To this I replied airily, " Oh, he owns hotejs, sir." 
(Disgusting little snob!) 

"Excellent! An excellent and essentially paternal 
profession for a father. A kind of fidus Achates to the 
wanderer and outcast And you! Do you propose 
also to minister to the material comforts of mankind ? " 

He was the only one who seemed to connect the lim- 
ited monarchy in any way with the friction of the 
world. He was the only cabinet minister with a for- 
eign policy. I remember very vividly a remark he made 
to me during my last term. He said : 

"Well, Purbeck, what are you going to do in the 
world ? You'll never get on by just being a nice boy." 

Naturally I had no concerted programme to set before 
the Kev. James Parke Tidsall, but so completely im- 
pregnated was I then with the Leydhurst spirit that I 
replied nonchalantly: 

" Oh, I don't know, sir. The pater has an idea of 
my going up to Oxford, and taking up law.'' 

A cold-blooded lie ! I never called him " the pater.'' 
He had never breathed a word about Oxford, and I had 
as unlegal a mind as any boy in the school. But " the 
law " sounded well. In the best Leydhurstian manner. 
And all the time I was thinking : 

" What a queer thing to say about being a nice boy !," 

It sounded so dismally weak and damning. Had I 
only the limitations of the nice boy, and nothing else ? 
I didn't at all want to be a nice boy. In fact, I wasn't. 
I wouldn't be. I glowered against the wall, and felt un- 
happy. The eyes of Mr. Tidsall were watching me 


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quizzically. Suddenly, some queer spirit of revolt broke 
out in me. I cut in savagely with : 

" What I'd like to do myself is to keep a pub like my 
father does, and hand out pots of beer^" . . . 

The eyes of Mr. TidsaU completely vanished among 
the projections on his face ; hundreds of little lines ran 
hither and thither like streams trickling down the val- 
leys between the hills. He put his arm round my shoul- 
der and led me into the corridor (for the bell was ringing 
for chapel). 

" It is just as I suspected," he said. 

Good! He'd suspected it; then he could tell them, 
and be danmed to them. 

" Mr. Goodrich and I were discussing you the other 
day. He had an idea you were destined for the Church, 
but I said, * No, I know quite well what Purbeck will 
become.' " 

All right, then ; get on with it. Say a pub keeper, or 
a potman . . . quick I 

" ^ Only I am still a little indeterminate in which 
branch it will be.' " 

What do you mean? Father's only got one branch. 
That's in Camden Town. 

" * But,' I said, ^ I am quite convinced that Purbeck 
will manifest surprising ability in one of the arts.' " 

He grinned his departure into the passage to the 
vestry. As I stood amongst the group of boys in the 
chapel, chanting more or less in unison : 

'^0 all ye little hills and sheep, Bless ye the Lord: Praise 
Him and magnify Him for ever/' 

it suddenly occurred to me, " He must have thought I 
was acting." It was very difficult to arrive at truth in 
this place. What was the old saying about Truth in 
Wine ? Perhaps so. . . . Perhaps in my father's house 
tEere was more truth than there was in this chapeL 


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Under the influence of drink men were apt to say exactly 
what came into their heads. My father himself drank 
sometimes, but never to excess. 

*^ For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all 
gods. In His hands are all the comers of the world, and 
the hills and the sheep are His also." 

I would like to have this service conducted just once 
with everybody drunk. Especially the Head, and that 
thin, vinegary little wife of his with a down on her 
upper lip. 1 would like to see Tidsall and Goodrich, 
and all the other masters, garrulously drunk and dis- 
cussing the truth of the whole thing. Old James, the 
" Stinks " master, a Scotsman and no fool, explaining 
precisely what he meant by " the anger of God." How 
grand it would all be! Grand and inspiring! And 
Mr. Speen up in the organ-loft, leaning over the balus- 
trade and telling the Head exactly what he thought of 
him, in his own language (Speen was a Welshman). 
And suddenly above it aU a fearful crash, and my 
father's voice ringing out : 

" Silence, gentlemen ! " 


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LAUEA came into my room to brush her hair. It 
was a pleasant intimation that old customs need 
j/ not be discarded because she was now a woman 
of the world and I a man who had left school the pre- 
vious day. I was in bed, too excited to get up ; too busy 
with various anticipations. The winter sun illumined 
the cosy companionableness of the whole room: the 
green-tiled washstand, the buff-coloured walls, the photo- 
graph of Henry Irving as Hamlet nonchalantly holding 
the skull of Yorick, my school things piled up care- 
lessly by the fireplace like passengers waiting at a 
railway-station, and, above all, the face of Laura re- 
flected in the mirror in front of the window, intensely 
familiar and queerly unfamiliar. Her mobile face, 
olive, foreign-looking, broadly modelled above the brow, 
her dark, animated eyes and full red lips. She swung 
her head first one side, then the other, as she brushed 
out the great tresses of her blue-black hair . . . absorb- 
ingly interesting. She talked breathlessly, but I was 
almost too consumed with the vision of her to listen 
properly. How beautiful she was growing ! At least, 
no, not exactly beautiful; but you had to look at her. 
She gripped you. There was always something going 
on about her. 

" She is like a musical instrument herself," I thought. 

" You can play on her." 


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I knew all about Laura and her glorious life. She 
wrote me breathless letters to school fairly regularly, but 
always with the " frantic haste " side emphasised. 
When she went to the Academy they soon found out that 
her second study — the fiddle — should really be the 
first study, so the piano had had to play second fiddle, 
as it were. She was very much in earnest, worked like 
a Trojan, and had undeniable talent. She was 
launched. The Career, with a very, very big capital C, 
was already in progress. She had played at the Fort- 
nightlies and at a public concert at Blackheath ; and she 
drove about London in hansom-cabs with young men. 
Magnificent ! And yet there was something more than 
this about Laura which fascinated me. She was so very 
much a woman and so completely incomprehensible. It 
was largely this incomprehensibility which intrigued me, 
I think. It seemed to link me to all the potentialities of 
romance. As I watched her the memory of Leydhurst 
dwindled to a sound like a toneless repetition of a 
proposition in Euclid ... as though one had spent 
years proving something that had been proved already, 
and wasn't really worth proving when you had done it. 

A middle-aged lady named Mrs. Snell, and a great 
friend of stepmother's, once said : " Laura is one of 
these temperamental women. That is to say, she's al- 
ways either irritable or amorous." 

On the surface there was a horrid element of truth in 
that statement. No one could be more charming than 
Laura, acutely sympathetic, aflFectionate and gay. On 
the other hand, no one could be more trying or unreason- 
able. She magnified trifles, worked herself into a 
frenzy over quite hypothetical grievances, was easily 
jealous, and could at times be positively cruel. 


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I do not know what she had been saying, but I found 
her sitting on my bed. She was still busy with her hair. 
Suddenly she said : 

" Did the boys ever say anything about it ? " 


" Dad's business.'^ 

I felt an odd feeling of shame creep over me. I re- 
plied : 

" No. They didn't know — exactly." 

She gave me one of her quick looks and said : 

" You never told them ? " 

" No — I — I didn't tell them." 

Some tremendous emotion was passing over her face. 
She jammed hairpins into a dangerous position in her 
mouth and spluttered through them: 

"I didn't either, but — they found out It's dis- 

I felt peculiarly guilty. Laura and I were both 
guilty, and both rather mean. 

" After all," I said rather lamely, " it's nothing to be 
ashamed of." 

She stood up and exclaimed quite fiercely : 

" Isn't it ! You wait till you start doing things 1 " 

She shook out her hair again vigorously. Then she 
added : 

" Do you know, it's been perfectly beastly ! I know 
what they all think. When anyone — wants to bring 
me home in a cab, I — never let them come to the door. 
I get off in the Camden Road. I make some excuse. 
But all the same, they know. I can tell by the way they 
look at me. I've heard some of the girls snigger, and 
refer to beer.'^ 

It was obviously up to me to defend my father's posi- 


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tioiL I had never given the ethical side of the problem 
much consideration. I had simply felt unreasonably 
ashamed, like Laura — a shame prompted mostly by the 
thought of what others would ihink. I sat up in bed and 

" As you know, dad conducts his business as decently 
as any tradesman in Camden Town. Anyone will tell 
you. It's caddish of us to criticise. He earns the 
money that keeps us. There's nothing wrong with the 
business when it's decently conducted. It's simply the 
abuse that's bad. It's just the same with a butcher or 
a grocer. If people go and eat too much you can't blame 
the butcher or the grocer." 

" I know I I know all about that," replied Laura. 
"At the same time, it's beastly! Especially when 
you're trying to do things. You come up against it all 
the time." 

She began rolling up her hair at a furious pace. 

" You needn't pretend," she went on. " You've 
found it out already. Why did you always write and 
choke dad off coming down to you on Speech Days ? " 

This was an unpleasant thrust. A bold insinuation 
that I not only denied my father's business, but that I 
repudiated my father himself. It was a fact I would 
never acknowledge, even to myself. How disgusting 
Laura was I 

" I only thought it would bore him," I ventured. 

Jjaura laughed, implying that she knew that I knew 
that I was lying. Why was Laura always so annoying 
in this way? She always lived in the instant. I had 
been away for all this time, and directly I got home she 
butted in at once with all this unpleasant innuendo. I 
wanted to begin at the beginning. One might go away 
for five years, and Laura would meet you at the station 
on your return, and you would perhaps find her having 
a row with a porter. And she would continue the row 


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and be full of the details of it for half an hour, as though * 
it were a more important event than your return. You 
had to know her very well to know that of course she 
didn't really think so. You had to play her like a 
salmon. She would swing back after a time and would 
demand to know every little incident of your journey. 
And afterwards you would find that she had forgotten 
nothing that you told her. In fact, she would remember 
things you said, and bring them up in argument against 
you years after. Some little incidents you might relate 
which occurred to you as being trivial and humorous, and 
she would find them tragic and almost unbearable. 
Other episodes which appeared to you quite ordinary 
would supply her with an inexhaustible fund of mirth. 
Of course I couldn't repudiate the dad ! At least, not 
exactly. It was only the slow realisation that the two 
ingredients wouldn't mix. I thought much more of the 
dad than I did of the school. Only I was not strong 
enough to stand up against the school atmosphere. 
Father wasn't cultivated, of course. ... I remembered 
one day after my first year making some reference to 
Darwin. Father had immediately fired up. 

"Darwin! Fiddlesticks! Don't talk to me about 
Darwin. What I say is, if a man came from a monkey, 
why shouldn't a cock-sparrow have come from an ele- 

Quite unanswerable, but it wouldn't do, you know. 
Fancy the Rev. James Parke Tidsall overhearing such a 
remark I ... It wouldn't do at all. It was very grad- 
ual, this process of discovering the danger of a little 
knowledge. And here was Laura taunting me with her 
" trying to do things." Of course I meant to try and 
do things. Laura wasn't going to have it aU her own 
way. I said spitefully: 

" Well, cheese it I I'm going to get up." 

In a flash the mood of Laura swung to the opposite 



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pole. She Btruck an attitude, holding the brush abo^e 
her head, her eyes dancing with merriment. 

" I haven't told you the news I " she exclaimed. 

"What's that?'' 

" The Zulu pudding has got a young man." 

She burst into laughter and rolled me over on the bed, 
and I laughed too. Then, picking up my trousers, she 
threw them at me and rushed out of the room. How 
fine this life was ! How adorable was Laura I 


I stood looking out of the play-room window. At 
least, it was no longer now the play-room. It was 
Laura's " studio." AH our old toys were buried away 
in boxes. Here she came to practise the fiddle by the 
hour. It was right away from the rest of the house. 
The floor was covered with cork-lino. In the comer 
was a sewing-machine covered up with a wooden lid of 
some reddish-brown wood. A brass music-stand by the 
gas-fire held some open sheets of music. Bach ! Music 
was piled up on the floor and on a small bamboo table. 
There was a heavy leather-upholstered chair and two 
stools. Odd collections of trunks and bed-fittings tried 
to hide themselves behind a serge curtain. Cecil Aldin's 
dogs had been taken down and were superseded by two 
reproductions of Raphaels. It was partly Laura's room 
and partly a place of transition. Not a very satisfactory 
combination. Laura had not come home from the 
Academy. I was waiting for tea. A fine rain was driv- 
ing into the darkening streets. Just opposite, a hurdy- 
gurdy was grinding out a perfectly heart-breaking dirge. 
The gas-fire hummed. London could be very melan- 

I enjoyed my periods of melancholy in the same way 
that I enjoyed a London fog. It was a mysterious con- 


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dition out of which anything might suddenly appear. 
I loved the mournful tune of the hurdy-gurdy, thick, 
treacly, opaque . . • and downstairs in the parlour the 
gas would be lighted, the tea-cups shining, probably but- 
tered buns. . . . Laura full of exciting tidings, step- 
mother mildly tremulous, father contagious — blinking 
round the room, pretending not to be excited too. All 
very familiar and very dear, to be viewed at various and 
abrupt angles. A church spire asserted itself vaguely 
across a vista of chimney-pots. Always beautiful, build- 
ings stretching skywards. Like Oxford, perhaps. 
Strange I should have said that to the Rev. Parke Tid- ^ 
sail. " Oxford and the law.'^ It was the most Leyd- ' 
bursty attitude of me, the upward thrust of the limited 
monarchy. . . . Oxford, a dream like going back to 
the Middle Ages and eating iced meringues, ragging 
one's way through a Consistory of parchment prelates, 
being a hero in The Boy's Own Paper serial : the vision 
gripped me in my most pliable mood. My most vivid 
friend at Leydhurst, Martyn, really was going up to 
Oxford, probably the law, possibly politics. But Mar- 
tyn had it all, all that Oxford would demand of him. 
I could see him slipping into the toga of the pleasant, 
cynical reverence for the "ghosts of England's great- 
ness "... a bom theorist, crushed by this weight of 
masonry and taking it all " like a gentleman." I hadn't 
got it. Oxford was too romantic for me. ... I should 
go mad ! My scale of social values was still imperfectly 
adjusted. Had Oxford its three bars ? 

At the Grammar School Laura and I triumphed by 
the sheer weight of our following. Our new satchels 
and boots, our barmaids and prize-fighters and Zulu 
puddings put them all to rout Our position appeared 
impregnable. Leydhurst and the Royal Academy of 
Music shifted the focus to a disturbing angle. Certain, 
things wouldn't do. Certain things weren't done. On« 


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might drink his liquor, but one doesn't shake hands with 
the landlord. Cake for tea and the pantomime at 
Christmas is not wealth. Should the paintwork of a 
parlour be picked out in two shades of green? Nay, 
does one have a parlour at all ? How maddening it all 
was ! Poor Laura ! she had felt it most bitterly. Per- 
haps she had been to places where things were ordered 
differently, been criticised, ostracised, suffered endless 

As I stood there, I suffered a sudden realisation of 
a very definite fact. Something about the sewing- 
-machine in its red-wood case brought it home to me. 
Father was not really rich. He was only rich in the 
Granunar School sense. The gilt mirrors in the draw- 
ing-room, the superabundance of heavy furniture in 
the parlour, the plush curtains, the wax fruit, and " The 
Death of Wolfe " — all an illusion and a snare. The 
realisation did not distress me. In some peculiar way 
I felt relieved. Oxford was a mirage — stone fingers 
pointing at the sky — just another limited monarchy, 
or perhaps a collection of limited monarchies. What 
was it people meant by "the Oxford manner"? It 
must mean that if you once went there you could never 
eradicate the taint. Even Leydhurst cast its spell, im- 
pressed you with a more or less permanent attitude, but 
Oxford would permeate you. There could be no escape. 
At the age of sixty you would not be yourself, but an 
automaton moving up and down " in the Oxford man- 
ner." To live, one must always be escaping. I can 
hear Laura. She is laughing on the floor below, her 
face bright and pink with the cold wind, her black furs 
tucked tight beneath her chin. She will haYC a lot to 
say. Father is moving heavily on the stairs and laugh- 
ing, too. His voice comes booming up: 


"Yes, dad?" 


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" What was it the King of North Carolina said to 

the " 

Thank God I 


Was there ever anything so persistent as Laura's first 
lover ? I think he excited me more than he did Laura 
herself. I'm not sure that he was absolutely her first 
lover, but he was the first to break through the cordon 
of our reserves and carry " The Duchess of Pless '' by 
assault. He was a fellow-student at the Koyal Acad- 
emy, and his name was Anton Zuk. I could only 
piece his story together from my own observations, and 
from various confessions which Laura was good enough 
to give me. His mother was French and his father 
was a Czech. His father had been killed in a duel 
over some affair connected with a Polish dancer. His 
mother had served a term of imprisonment for throw- 
ing vitriol over the wife of a Government official. 
Neither of the love-affairs were in any way connected. 
When released, she had brought the boy Anton to Eng- 
land. He was then fifteen. Both he and his mother 
detested England. " They could think of nothing bad 
enough to say of the place or the people, but they had 
continued to live here for ten years. His mother had a 
certain amount of money, and they lived in a fiat in 
Netting Hill. As a musician he had no technique at 
all, but he was a kind of musical maniac. He had a 
small, sweet tone, and after he had played he waa 
speechless with emqtion for several minutes. One felt 
he was going to be ill. His face went a kind of greeny 
colour, his lips trembled, and his eyes quivered danger- 
ously. His hatred and contempt for all other musicians 
was almost painful. If you mentioned their names, he 
fi^flve ft hiss like a snake. At the fortnightly concerts 


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he hissed the other students. He hissed his professor 
when he criticised him. He had a small black mous- 
tache which he jerked up round his nose on such occa- 
sions, exposing a line of brilliantly white teeth. 

His mother encouraged these manifestations. He 
would play some quite ordinary little air, dragging it 
out, smudging the passages, and over-sentimentalising 
it, and accompanying the whole performance with loud 
snortings and gasps. When he had finished he would 
put his violin down and stand there like a tottering 
statue. His mother would rush across the room and 
throw her arms round his neck, and weep, murmuring 
passionately : 

" Oh, ma mie . . . ma mie . . . adorable ! " 

One day at the Academy, Laura was practising in one 
of the rooms whilst waiting for her professor. She had, 
as a matter of fact, gone to the wrong room. The pro- 
fessor had not turned up; she continued to enjoy her- 
self. She said she played very well. When she had 
finished she was about to put her violin back in its case, 
when she observed a small man tip-toeing across the 
room. It was Anton Zuk. She knew him by sight. 
She said : 


The room was getting dark. He made no reply, but 
as he advanced she noticed that his eyes were shining. 
He stretched out both hands to her and almost involun- 
tarily she placed hers in his, to find in less than a 
minute that they were saturated with tears and kisses. 

" At last ! At last ! " was all He said. 

She said that the experience produced in her an odd 
sense of mystified elation. She could not make up her 
mind whether she wanted to kiss him on the lips or to 
box his ears. She did neither, but stood there power- 
less. He continued to hold her hands, but looking 
wildly into her eyes, he murmured : 


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" Ton . . . you, I adore you. I have watched you. 
You are the only one. An artist, a musician. All your 
soul. . . . Godl how beautiful you are! " 

What could Laura be expected to do? She was 
twenty. It was the first time anyone had told her she 
was "an artist, a musician." The first time anyone 
had singled her out and told her she was beautiful. The 
whole thing was too good to be thrown away. Her own 
romantic impulses were profoundly stirred. She drew 
her hands away at last and replied feebly: 

"Oh, do you think so?" 

The outer fortifications had fallen. She put up a 
stiff fight to defend the approaches to " The Duchess 
of Pless." She manoeuvred with him over teas and 
lunches. She skirmished with him in passages and 
corridors. She marooned him in Regent's Park„ and 
completely side-tracked him in the Camden Road. 

One day she unburdened her soul to him. In reply 
to his protestations, she said: 

" I can't ask you home, Anton. My father keeps a 

For a moment he appeared to tremble, then, seizing 
her hands feverishly, he whispered: 

" I will wash it all away with my tears." 

The vision of Anton Zuk washing away such a solid 
institution as " The Duchess of Pless " with his tears 
might have stirred her risibility, only that she felt a 
little shocked and offended. What did he mean? It 
wasn't at all the right kind of reply. As a matter of 
fact, Herr Zuk did not properly understand the mean- 
ing of a " public-house." It came out afterwards, in 
the course of a fevered attempt at reconciliation, that 
he thought " a public-house " was a kind of house of 
ill-fame. The revelation did not amend matters, but 
it produced storms of emotion, cross-currents of mis- 
understanding; it taxed the maternal resources of 


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Laura. AU her pity for him welled up. She enjoyed 
it enormously. 

And one Sunday evening, quite unbidden, he called. 
He had tracked her to her lair. The visit was not a 
success. Uncle Stephen was there, and two old friends 
.of father's, a Mr. and Mrs. Pennycuick, also connected 
with the licensing trade. Anton sulked in the corner, 
never taking his eyes off Laura except to bare his teeth 
at the company. Mr. Pennycuick, a large, impersonal 
man with a red, mobile face and a highly-coloured waist- 
coat held together with hundreds of leather buttons, once 
rounded him up and gave him a long dissertation on 
music-hall comedians in the 'seventies. It came about 
through hearing that Anton was a musician. He stood 
it for nearly fifteen minutes, then he turned abruptly 
away. A little later on he vanished without saying a 

When he had gone, father showed his disapproval by 
a sullen gloom. 

Unde Stephen butted in with : 

'^ Who is this garlic-eating little mountebank you had 

Mrs. Pennycuick sniggered and said : 

" Eeally ! I thought these foreigners were supposed 
to have manners ? Eeally ! " 

The thing might have fizzled out except for this oppo- 
sition. Laura naturally took his side. She said he 
was a genius — a great artist ; none of us could under- 
stand him. She flounced out of the room and went to 
bed without supper. 

The next day she walked with him in Eegent's Park. 
He observed her sympathetic mien, and crowded in all 
his advantages. 

" It is horrible . . . horrible, this life of yours," he 
growled. " These people — s'ss — that fat man. Who 
are they all ? Laura, you must oome away with me. I 


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will save you from them — s'ss ! God 1 how I love you. 
You have beauty, intelligence, a souL You should live 
where only beauty moves softly. Some little place we 
will have just to ourselves. You and I. And at night 
I will draw the great curtain, and you shall play to 
me — the Lalo, as you did this afternoon. And I will 
sit so, with my eyes closed, crushing out the memory 
of everything except you . . . you, slowly swaying to 
the rhythm of my lover." 

He gripped her hand and added: ** To-morrow you 
shall kaow everything." 

There was something intriguing in this idea. Laura 
had always wanted to know everything. It sounded 
dangerous, and Laura was never known to flinch at 

They met on a bridge over Regent^s Park Canal. His 
face was deadly white, and he was restless and mysteri- 
ous. Suddenly he snatched a book from his breast- 
pocket. It was an old Bible in Czech characters. 

"Look," he said. "This was my father's Bible. 
He carried it with him on his campaigns. See my love 
for you." . 

He opened it and tore out a handful of pages — the 
whole of the Book of Deuteronomy — and flung them 
over the railing. A light wind scattered them over 
the surface of the canal. 

" So I would tear out all that is sacred in me to serve 
you. These sheets, like the blood from my heart, shall 
mingle with the waters of the river. On and on they 
shall go till they reach the great sea. And St. Aloysius 
will find them. He is my patron saint. He will un- 
derstand my message." 

"But this isn't a river, this is only a canal. It 
doesn't run into the sea at all ! " 

Poor Laura! I don't know whether he ever kissed 
her, but I know he bit her once in a paroxysm of love 


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or hate. The scar was on the angle of her jaw for 
weeks. He was always hanging about the road when 
she went out. He sent her enormous bouquets of orchids 
and boxes of sweets tied up with scented ribbons. He 
sneaked into the house at odd times, and once went into 
the bar* Unfortunately, not knowing the ropes ol the 
establishment, he went into the public bar, drank two 
glasses of beer, and nearly got thrown out by Jingle 
for having a row with a navvy. He sent her long 
poems in French, broke his violin over his knee in a 
fit of humility at her superior playing, threatened her 
with a revolver and two knives ; appeared one day with 
a gash above his heart. He had tried to stab himself 
but fainted before the fell deed was accomplished. He 
made love, swore, cursed, whined, and threatened in five 
European languages and one Asiatic. What was Laura 
to nuie of it ? Was ever woman in this manner wooed ? 
Was ever woman in this manner won? The answer is 
probably yes. 

It was father who cut the Gordian knot of this erotic 
persecution. I know, because I happened to observe 
the whole performance. Anton had called, and Laura 
was out. I watched the top of his head as he walked 
reluctantly downstairs. At the foot of the stairs was 
father He looked ugly, very thick and square in his 
tweed knickerbockers and brown gaiters and square-toed 
boots, still glistening with the early-morning gloss. Htis 
face was rather red and his eyes protruded, as they did 
when anything excited him. His hair stuck out, and 
he was bristling like an Irish terrier watching a rabbit- 
hole. He spoke quite calmly, but with a note of acid 

" Look here, if I find you hanging about my gal any 
more, I'll give you a damn good hiding.'' 


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SUCKLING and Gradidge, two other clerks, and I 
sat on high stools, balancing the quarterly ac- 
counts. Mr. Barnard, the managing director of 
Messrs. Braysf elt & Stene, the wall-paper manufacturers 
in High Street, Marylebone, had impressed upon us the 
necessity of getting the work finished by Saturday. 
This was Thursday afternoon. An exhausted sun crept 
down the flank of the high building in the court and cast 
wistful patterns on our desks and ledgers. A quarter 
past five — another hour and a quarter to go. What 
an important companion is a clock when you are em- 
ployed on uncongenial work ! He is either your friend 
or your enemy. He has two friendly hours — lunch- 
time and knocking-off time. Otherwise you do your 
best not to gaze upon his face, and yet your eye is 
always wandering thither, and then he is your enemy. 
A good plan is to persuade yourself that it is much 
earlier than it is, then if you look up he gives you a 
pleasant smile. But woe unto you if you worry him I 
He frowns, and frowns, and sulks — sometimes he 
appears to stop altogether. I was in a bad mood. My 
clock detested and tortured me. Something about the 
sunlight stirred memories of Leydhurst. Not such a 
bad place, after all, the limited monarchy. The habit 
of cricket, and sport, and rags takes a lot of eradicating 



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from the blood. The schoolboy in a city oflSce . . . 
cruel! The transit should be more gradual. What 
sort of school had Suckling been to ? I never liked to 
ask him. He was much older than I. He might have 
been bom and bred in this place. He had a clear-cut^ 
bird-like face, with glasses, and his long broad fingers 
were interminably stained with red and black ink. 
He seldom smiled, but was always pleasant and good- 
tempered. His life appeared to satisfy him. Not so 
Gradidge, who was a glutton for work but always in a 
state of revolt about some little thing. A North coun- 
tryman, clear-headed, ambitious, and frankly a material- 
ist, but with a mild sympathy for other things. He 
was only dissatisfied because he was not making more 
money. Strange that it should have come to this. 
Not Oxford and the law, or even one of the arts, as 
Mr. Tidsall hinted, but — just going on being a nice 

I know I had been a nice boy in a fateful interview 
with dad. Some parents have a genius for concealing 
their feelings, and male parents have a special side- 
line genius for lying low about their business affairs 
with the family. Neither Laura nor I had the faintest 
idea what father's position was: whether we ought to 
be prodigal, or whether we ought to be economical. 
He gave us everything we wanted, but kept the reins 
well in his own hand. Laura was now twenty-one, and 
explained to me that other girls at the E.A. had an 
allowance. Father would not do that. He never de- 
nied her a penny, but she had to come and ask for it. 
And then, a month after my leaving school, occurred 
that embarrassing interview. 

I can see father now, pushing his way about the 
furniture in the parlour, rather red in the face, blow- 
ing his nose an unnecessary number of times. Some- 
thing, it appeared, had gone* wrong. One of his part- 


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ners had defaulted — an awful muddle about some 
shares. All news to me. This was the first I had 
heard of partners. I had always looked upon ''The 
Duchess of Pless " as a benevolent autocracy. Father 
was frightfully upset — obviously worried. He had 
had other hopes for me. (Oxford?) Now he feared 
I should have to buckle down. It was very regrettable. 
Oh no, not really — serious. We could all go on the 
same. Laura must continue her studies. She would 
complete her course soon. Only ... he had hoped 
something better. I must choose a career. We should 
all have to hedge a little. 

A career ! Under the circumstances how could I hit 
upoi) the choice of one of the idle and quite unnecessary 
arts ? I felt a wave of chivalry and conmiercial ambi- 
tion sweep over me. It would be my mission to save 
my father's house. 

" How would it do if I helped you, dad t " 

What a nice boy I was I But my father shook his 
head dubiously. No, the licensing trade was not one 
he would recommend to — me. If I thought of enter- 
infi^ a commercial house, it could easily be arranged. 
Chartered accountancy, insurance, ship-broking, all 
good, remunerative professions to a young and energetic 
man. As my father fidgeted with the arm of the horse- 
hair chair I realised that he knew nothing about me 
except that I was a nice boy. I knew even less about 
him, except that he was my father. Love blinds one. 
Children to parents are an embarrassing joy, seen 
through an emotional mist. He looked so helpless and 
imget-at-able. My heart bled with pity for him. 
Again he spoke : 

" Things will mend, I hope. I'm sure they will. 
My friend Barnard, the wall-paper man, said he could 
do with a lad to learn the business . . . could start 
straight away on a low salary. I want you to do what 
you like, Tom.*' 

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I was thrilled, but disappointed. Quite soon, what- 
ever else happened, I should be encountering new ex- 
periences, rubbing shoulders with f ellow-strugglers, see- 
ing new faces, earning my living, starting out on that 
long trail to the Mecca of what we call — independence. 
But — a wall-paper factory did not appear very allur- 
ing. It had not the human appeal of my father^s 
splendid bars. Wall-papers were a background. It 
was the actors themselves who moved me. I wriggled 
from one leg to another, and answered : 

" That would be fine." 

The spring found me learning the wall-paper tirade 
as a junior clerk. I was taken over the factory and 
shown the various processes of sizing, printing, flocking, 
gilding, and folding. The old building seemed to rock 
with the eternal rumble of rollers and machinery. 
Doors banged. Boys, with their faces splashed with 
whitening, rushed hither and thither. Men in white 
linen overalls performed dexterous feats of conversion 
upon lengths of white paper with the aid of sticks and 
rollers and machines. It fascinated me to watch thef 
pattern grow. One, two, three, sometimes as many as 
seventeen printings, and behold ! rich bunches of flowers 
and vines ready for my lady's boudoir. It seemed in- 
credible that there could be enough bare walls to sup- 
port all this illusion. I began to love the smell of size. 
Every trade has its smell which to the craftsman is as 
inspiring as salt to a sailor. But down in the dingy 
offices among the account books and ledgers my soul 
dried up. It was there I began to understand about 
the clock. 

Still only — ^twenty past five. Another hour and ten 
minutes. Damn Suckling! Why doesn't he scream or 
sing? It is summer time . . . July. The fields at 
Leydhurst will be green and cool. Perhaps there's a 

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school match to-day. Long and Biddle coming out to 
bat. The boys cheering. A starling twittering above 
the pavilion. . . . 

What are all these figures ? IWe added them up three 
times. Twice they were diflFerent — the first time I've 
forgotten. I was always bad at figures. "Maths." 
proved my Sedan in the Metric: I must make an ef- 
fort £47 15s 3d. No, it's never been that before. 
What a queer-shaped head Gradidge has. Like a ram- 
His forehead bulges out, but there's no back to it. Has 
Gradidge people? A mother? A sister? Of course 
he's married! He's always talking about " the missus," 
as one might talk of " the Press " or " the Government." 
Whatever sort of woman would she be ? A decent chap, 
but how horrible to be married to him! Everything 
would become tight, formed, inelastic. As he gets older 
the way will narrow and narrow. I mustn't do that. 
The woman I marry . . . apple-blossoms again^jt a sky 
heavy with heatrmist, king cups and clover diapering the 
green meadows, a skylark singing of lovers who have 
passed, the air tender with unborn memories . . . why 
unborn? Because I know all about them before they 
happen — these episodes. I shall only live them all 
again. Her eyes melting before the fire of mine, the 
fragrance of her body ... is it all unknown to me be- 
cause I have not met her? She is coming across the 
meadows, alert and watchful; her little chin is raised 
in expectation, her cheeks dimple, the apple-blossom 
nods approval ; sunburnt mirth sparkles from her eyes, 
she stretches out her arms . . . 

Hullo ! It's half -past six. 


Laura suffered from a popular womaijly illusion. 
Which is, that if a thing is reasonable it ought to be 



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done, and done at once and unquestioningly. This has 
never been man's way. He knows too much about logic 
to employ any of the dangerous stuff. He equivocates 
and buries his head in the sand. Reason has never been 
a very powerful factor in shaping human affairs. Love, 
greed, and the Roman Catholic Church, even the daily 
Press, have all done more. 

Laura had nothing of the conspirator about her. If 
she wanted a thing, she yelled for it instantly. If de- 
nied it, she wanted to know why, and the reason had to 
be pretty convincing. If she thought it right and rea- 
sonable that she should have it, she fought for it as 
relentlessly and with the same unscrupulous methods 
that she employed when she fought me in the garden 
about the spiders. 

One evening she tracked me to my room, and began 
by saying: 

" IVe made up my mind." 

I knew this meant trouble of some sort, so I emitted a 
grunt of lukewarm enquiry. 

" IVe been thinking about it a lot. And I'm not 
going to stand it any longer. It's ruining my career." 

"What is?" 

"Living at home. I'm going to get rooms out — 
probably somewhere near Baker Street or the Park. 
Of course I shall come home for the week-end and at 
odd times. But I'm going to have my own place. I'm 
getting on. Jakes' have got me several engagements 
for next season, and I'm going to teach. If dad doesn't 
like to help me out with the rent, he can do the other 

I said, " But the old chap will be very upset." 

Laura's eyes flashed. " I can't help that. He'll get 
over it. I don't see why I should have my whole 
career spoilt just to humour a whim of his." 

"Well, it's not exactly a whim." 


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"What isn't?" 

" Living with your own people." 

" Yes, it is. There's no reason for it at all." 

She kicked one of my slippers across the carpet, and 


" Lord ! How I hate Jhese beastly bars! The smell 

of beer and tobacco, the crowds of half-drunken 

" You don't go in there." 

" No, but you're conscious of them all the time. And 
you pass outside and see them. And everybody knows 
you're connected with the beastly place. A pub! A 
filthy pub! And last week-end I spent with the Cop- 
leys at Tring. Bare walls, chintz, and old furniture 
. . . taste, everybody moving softly, talking of inter- 
esting things, a silence I never knew existed ;. like a 
deep velvet curtain against which everything seems 
beautiful. I'm sorry, old boy, if I seem selfish. But I 
don't see why I shouldn't make a start. As a matter 
of fact, I don't see why you shouldn't. You'll never 
get on, going backwards and forwards between this pub 
and the wall-paper factory." 

" It's all very well " I began, and then I could 

not exactly determine what was all very well. The 
matter required enormous consideration. I hadn't 
Laura's set conviction that " getting on " was the Alpha 
and Omega of life. I hesitated and said : 

"When are you' going?" 

"On Monday." 


Father's attitude in the matter surprised me. It was 
an eventuality which had never occurred to him, but 
he took it very well. He was obviously a little discon- 
certed, disappointed perhaps, but he laughed and ex- 
claimed : 


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" Oh-ho-ho ! So that's it, is it ? " 

I saw him standing in the yard, smoking, and think- 
ing it over for nearly an hour. Then he took a 'bus to 
Slocombe Street, Marylebone, where Laura had taken 
her rooms. He took a long look at the landlady, with- 
out making any comment ; the^i he examined the drains. 
Being apparently satisfied in both cases, he paid a 
month's rent in advance. He allowed her to take any 
furniture she wanted from the house, and he bought 
her a felt for her bedroom. The rooms looked quite 
pretty when Laura had finished with them, with grey 
walls and white paint and one or two btilliant-coloured 
cushions. She explained to me that as she got on she 
was going to buy old furniture, and to return father's 
piece by piece. 

" I mean to have a four-post bed," she said, " and 
old oak in the living-room, with Japanese prints and 
Persian tiles, and a bust of Beethoven." 

"What about a few original Vandykes and 
Raphaels ? " I enquired. 

Laura didn't take my humour in good part She 
flushed and said: 

" Oh ! you — you never believe in anything." 

She was intensely in earnest about it all. She'looked 
upon these rooms in Slocombe Street as the threshold to 
the Kingdom of Fame. With the gas-ring in the tiny 
kitchen, curtains to make, a hat to trim, pupils coming 
at three o'clock, a visit to her agent in the morning, then 
practice, practice, practice — no time for anything. A 
breathless life. The clock had not the horrors for her 
that it had for me. Always late, always rushed, she 
sent the hours skedaddling like ninepins. 

It was unfortunate that the very week she took her 
departure father was laid up with rheumatism in the 
eyes. It was a complaint which frequently visited 
hirn. He could do nothing but stay; in bed, or sit up in 


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the parlour with a bandage round his head. After 
supper, stepmother and I took it in turns to read to 
him — articles out of the Morning Advertiser or the 
serial story running in Lloyds' News. It was August, 
and London was close and enervating. One night I 
went up to the parlour. Father was sitting alone in 
the dark. I shut the door quietly. How queer he 
looked in the dim light, the bandage shutting him off 
from the world. What was he thinking about ? Some- 
one across the street was singing a ribald song. One 
could hear down below the dim murmur of the bar, the 
occasional popping of corks. How melancholy it 
seemed without Laura. What a little cat she was. 
Father turned and heard me. 

"Is that you, Mary?" 

" No, dad. It's me." 

" Oh ! Light the lamp, will you, boy ? " 

"Yes, dad." 

The green shade illumined the maze of furniture. I 
drew the curtains. 

" Shall I read to you, dad? " 

" Oh ! . . . thanks. Yes, you might read me a bit 
from the paper." 

I take up the paper. I skim the headings and the 
political news. Yes, stepmother has read him the de- 
tails of the Whitechapel murder. I read a long report 
of the Distillers' Commission . . . interminable. 
What is it all about ? My thoughts are roaming while 
I read. What is Laura doing ? What is it really like 
at the Copleys' ? Chintz and old furniture, people mov- 
ing softly and talking of interesting things. • . . How 
I envy Laura, her pluck, her enterprise, her splendid 

" What do you think, dad ? '* 

He does not answer. I tip-toe across the room. 
Father is asleep, or dreaming of something quite dif- 

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ferent, too. The Distillers' Commission had been too 
much even for himu I lower the lights and creep out 
of the roonu Downstairs the bars are gaily lighted. I 
boldly enter. I am allowed to do this occasionally, now 
that I am a man of the world. That is, if I have a 
reason. To-night I want to see the evening paper. It 
is in any case sufficient excuse. The saloon is nearly 
empty, but the public and private are full of animation. 
I get out of the way and pretend to read. The majestic 
figure of Mrs. Beddoes sways backwards and forwards, 
carrying tankards of ale. May has left, and a dark girl 
with a provocative giggle has taken her place. Olive 
still watches for the prince to enter. She is absently 
listening to a young man who is telling her some story 
in a shrill wheeze of how " he did the old bird in." In 
the private bar are two men having an animated debate. 
One is a forlorn individual who might be a funeral 
mute. The other is a thick-set man with side-whiskers. 
He keeps tapping the other on the top waistcoat-button 
and saying, " Look here. Small." Tie makes a gurgle 
as though his argument were suspended above the 
other's head, ready to drop and crush him. I am sud- 
denly alive to the nature of this remarkable discussion. 
They are arguing as to whether Jesus Christ would have 
been a Liberal or a Conservative. The thick-set man 
is getting the best of it, for the reason that he has a 
greater capacity for not listening. 

" Tou can say what you like. Small," he insists, " the 
teachings of Jesus Christ go to show that He was a 
true-blue Tory. He said, * The poor ye have with ye 
always, but Me ye have not always.' What does this 
mean ? It might have been cut out of a leading article 
in the Standard or the Morning Post Then He said, 
* I come not to bring peace but a sword.' What's that ? 

" Yes, but, my dear fellow " 


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" Listen to me, Small. Talking about the sword like 
that showed He was a militarist. Then He said, ^ Ren- 
der unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's.' In other 
words — support the Constitution. That showed He 
was a financier. Turning water into wine showed He 
was in with the brewers. By God ! He might have sat 
in Lord Salisbury's Cabinet." 

*' Yes, but what about the Sermon on the Mount ? " 

" Listen to me, Small . . ." 

I could listen all night. Father would not approve of 
this profane discussion. He would order it to cease. 
But how daring 1 It was just what I had dreamed 
might take place in the chapel at Leydhurst. Was the 
thick-set man sincere? Possibly. Or he may have 
only been experimenting in his own mind. Some small 
corner of it became suddenly alive and luminous. Man 
is the hunter, eternally seeking quarry. Why shouldn't 
he experiment ? Old James, the " Stinks " master, 
would probably talk like this in his cups — perhaps more 
logically and convincingly, but still experimentally. 
What are we all doing? We can't stew in a chapel, 
repeating things we are not allowed to question. My 
heart warms to these companionable fellows. Is there 
truth in the cup ? Not only truth, but adventure, toler- 
ance, and a kind of high, romantic courage ? 

Laura a hostess, serving tea in her own " place." I 
a guest. In fact, one of several guests. Five of us, and 
the other four musicians. Septimus Coyne, one of the 
young British composers, flaccid and rather shiny, with 
a scrumply down upon his chin which you don't know 
whether to be intentional or not; Angus Colum, a 


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heavily-built boy with a flat top to his head, leaning for- 
ward on his knees and turning his head from side to 
side, as he grins at the various speakers with an expres- 
sion which seems to say: "Music's the only thing 
worth talking about, and even that is rather piffle." He 
is a violinist, and so is Daisy Weir, a thin, straight' girl 
whose head is too large for her, and comes forward. 
She speaks rapidly and emphasises her points by shak- 
ing her curls at the listener. The fourth musician is 
Mary Copley. 

In truth, I find my social debut disturbing. I am not 
a success. They talk music the whole afternoon. Both 
the men ignore me, except Coyne, who once asks if I 
have ever had nettlerash. When I say no, he seems dis- 
appointed and settles down into a kind of coma. The 
room is growing darker. Once I rise and go and look 
out of the window. The street is deserted, except for a 
lamplighter crossing backwards and forwards. Above 
the roofs of the houses a star surprises me in the colour- 
less sky. Someone is standing close behind me, and^a 
voice says: 

"Don't you love it . . . all this?" 

As I turn and look at her, I am profoundly conscious 
of what she means. It is as though an angel were 
snatching me from my vision of failure. I rise to the 
highest pinnacles. She is — I don't know what she is, 
but I know what she is thinking. Do I love it, all this ? 
This contact with youth blissfully intent on life, watch- 
ing alertly . . . the melancholy mien of the dying day, 
the autumn with its tang of wakefulness and hope, the 
lamplighter? All my emotions are arrested, held and 
quickened. I do not know what her face is like. It is 
all in half-shadows, and her deep eyes are questioning 
m^ ^t is just at that angle I shall always see her, as 


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though coming towards me, drawing me, then holding 
me suspended. Yes, yes, I love it all. But it is you, 
the contact of this autumn night with you and your 
disturbing sense of having lived it all before, and yet 
the blinding surprise, amazement, unexpectedness of 


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THEEE was an awful to^o about socks on the 
day of our wedding. Mary took over the man- 
agement of me shortly after we were engaged. 
She thought about all the little things. She wedded 
herself to my domestic life. It is indeed an excellent 
plan. One slides into married life, without that abrupt 
plunge which often proves so chilling. In the first 
place, I was initiated into the true significance of Wood- 
stack. Woodstack is the name of a small town in Sur- 
rey, but it came to represent something infinitely more 
important. It was a tradition, a cult, a revelation, an 
entirely new experience. The people who lived at 
Woodstack lived in a world as remote from the people 
who frequented " The Duchess of Pless '' as the Caspian 
Sea is remote from one of the Highgate ponds. At 
Woodstack one could not believe that " The Duchess of 
Pless " existed. The whole key of my mental outlook 
became transposed. 

I spent a whole year listening, and being surprised. 
I was madly jealous of all these people who frequented 
the Copleys' house. They all seemed so clever, and so- 
phisticated, and intimate, and comfortable. I only es- 
caped exposing my Philistine upbringing by remaining 
silent. I believe I must have almost acquired the repu- 
tation of being one of these " strong, silent men." It is 
a reputation easy to acquire. If you remain silent and 



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keep on f rowningy people are apt to take the strength for 

I frowned because I was angry with myself. I was 
not entirely ignorant of the matters discussed, but I was 
feeling my way, and seldom had the courage to express 
an individual opinion upon these important abstract 
things. I envied the young man who said that " Schu- 
mann bored him to tears." I would have given any- 
thing to have been able to make such a colossal pro- 
nouncement. I envied a thin girl who said there was 
absolutely nothing in the Royal Academy worth looking 
at, and that an interior by Peter de Hoogh in the Na- 
tional Gallery was worth all the Turners put tc^thw. 
I envied Laura. Except for music, she knew very little 
more than I did, but she was absolutely emphatic She 
fitted into this atmosphere with complete success. The 
fact that she was a really talented violinist excused a 
lot, but she was always willing to give an opinion upon 
literature or painting or any other subject with an un- 
compromising conviction, and to argue about it. She 
did not care what anybody thought. They could like 
her or dislike her, but they couldn't ignore her. And 
for the most part Woodstack liked her. Mary, and her 
mother, and her brother Giles adored Laura. She was 
becoming, if not a beautiful in any case a very striking 
woman, with her dark hair and eyes, and her pale, ex- 
pressive face, always alight with some fury of movement. 

Unfortunately for me, the majority of the Woodstack 
people were musicians, and music was a subject upon 
which I was profoundly ignorant I soon found, how- 
ever, that even the musical profession had its three bars. 
There were the half-dozen giants at the top, about whom 
there was very little divergence of opinion ; then came 
the rank and file of serious musicians who disagreed 
about everything ; and finally, right away in a class by 
themselves, came the ballad-singers. 


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I think, of all classes of the community that I have 
ever encountered, ballad-singers are the most ignorant. 
They know nothing outside their own job and very little 
about that. They have all the egoism of the actor with- . 
out his naivete and quick sympathy. There was one 
who used occasionally to visit the Copleys. Her name 
was Bessie Steyning. Her conversational limit was the 
phrase : " My dear, they simply loved it ! ^' 

She was very large and fair. She seemed to be all 
back and front — if you know what I mean. She had 
masses of magnificent fair hair swathed in black-velvet 
ribbons and sparkling with little gems ; a clear, beautiful 
complexion needlessly powdered, and small, expression- 
less eyes. She manipulated one of those high soprano 
voices which are like burnished steel — clear, strong, 
and unrelentingly safe. You could hear her making a 
bee-line for the top C and you knew quite well she would 
get there safely, and at the same time you didn't care. 
She stood by the piano like a pudding. You felt that 
she looked upon her voice as an asset, like a bungalow 
up the river, or a set of sables ; something she meant to 
get the highest rate of interest on, and at the same time 
make other women envious. Her whole conversation 
was designed to show that all the managers were run- 
ning after her, that the public were wretched when she 
was not singing, that her fees were enormous, and that, 
indeed, her whole success was positively embarrassing. 


Happily, the majority of the Copleys' musical friends 
belonged to what I might call " the private bar " class. 
They were not as trying as Bessie Steyning, but I did 
not get on with them very well. They had all Laura's 
self-opinionativeness without her candour. They were 
supercilious, furtive, and pettily jealous of each other. 


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The most congenial spirit I met there was a landscape- 
painter called Yves Eadic^ and he was half -mad, I think. 
He was my first, experience of an art-madman. He 
lived in a bam which he had converted into a studio, and 
he lived like an emperor, without an emperor's responsi- 
bilities and discomforts. He lived alone with his 
career. He was of French-Polish stock, and he had a 
small private income. He did his own housework and 
cooking : that is to say, he occasionally removed some of 
the heavier debris from his plates and dishes, or grilled 
fish and sausages over a spirit-stove. He was himself 
small and rather dirty, and the barn had the appearance 
of being in a transitional state between habitation by 
cattle or man. The floor and atmosphere suggested cat- 
tle ; the bottles and canvases suggested man. There ap- 
peared to be hundreds of bottles. They stood in rows 
against the wall. A large circular table was piled up 
with half -used tubes of paint, papers, palettes, bottles of 
turpentine, oil, vinegar, beer, pieces, and vodka ; whilst 
in the centre would repose half a ham, turning brown 
at the edges and collecting the dust. I believe he drank 
vodka as a concession to his ancestry rather than be- 
cause he Uked it. The room gave one the appearance 
of unbridled license. 

But when I got to know Eadic I found out that he was 
by no means a free man. He was a slave to an abso- 
lutely autocratic artistic conscience. He was funda- 
mentally one of the most sincere people I had ever met 
His juanners were appalling. I cannot think why he 
took to me, but he did. He asked me to go and see him. 
I could not get the hang of his work at first, but grad- 
ually it grew on me. His landscapes were very low- 
toned. At first they seemed to me to be almost mono- 
tone", then I discovered that they were indeed full of col- 
our, but in a very restrained key. Tears afterwards I 
realised that they were founded rather on the manner of 


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Daubigny and Pointelin, but I had not seen any of these 
artists' work at that time. He had a way of making me 
sit down, and then he would produce a canvas and hug it 
to himseK, look across at me suspiciously, and fumble 
about with it and lick his lips. Then suddenly he would 
turn it round for my inspection, and glance quickly, 
almost fiercely, at my face for a verdict. I had a feel- 
ing that if I looked at it disapprovingly he might rush 
at me with a palette-knife. He was intensely in earnest 
All this solemn nonsense of social progress, all the hub- 
bub of politics, all this insanity of business, and be- 
haviour and manners, nay, even the banalities of love, 
and honour, and friendship might go hang. The only 
thing that mattered was Art. And not only Art, but 
his art, his own peculiar vision of a certain composition. 

He was dirty and small, but he made Bessie Steyning 
appear contemptible. In all his opinions and actions he 
was extreme, but his painting was sane and sombre, 
conceived on a lofty plane, composed with a reverent 
regard for values. He had no moral sense. He would 
sometimes disappear for days, and come back and boast 
to me of his depravities. Socially he was an anarchist. 
He sneered at religion, and law, and custom ; but I found 
him exhilarating. I have since met men somewhat like 
Badic, but never one who was so loyal to the sacred fire 
within him. He believed in painting a thing direct and 
leaving it. If it was not satisfactory he would do it 
again. I have known him paint a subject five times, 
and then destroy the result because it did not satisfy 

He disturbed my conscience more than anyone I had 
so far met My own life seemed weak and pitiable in 
comparison. After all, what was I doing? I was 
simply living up to the dismal prophecy of the Eev. 
James Parke Tidsall. " A nice boy ! " I had drifted 
completely. I had no definite impulses except to be 


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pleasant and kin<L Thanks to a quite fortuitous acci- 
dent which I shall describe later, I had for the time be- 
ing escaped the sordid drudgery of a life for which I was 
not fitted. I had a hundred and fifty pounds a year of 
my own, and I had launched out into romantic drama ; 
not that I had any strong impulse to write romantic 
drama, but because it occurred to me that it might be 
pleasant In any case I thought it would be nice to tiy. 
Laura had her career, and it consumed her. But I real- 
ised that her frenzy was quite different from Radic's. 
Laura wanted to fiddle well, but even more c<Hnpelling 
seemed to be her desire for success. She wanted to be 
acclaimed, and applauded, and written up in the Press, 
to be recognised as a virtuoso. Radio exhibited his pic- 
tures, but ignored everyone's opinion concerning them. 
He never read the newspapers. He bared his teeth at 
the mention of them. He sometimes sold his pictures, 
and this seemed to worry him exceedingly. He was 
haunted by the idea that someone would get hold of 
them who didn't appreciate them; would probably put 
them in a wrong light. He was rude to his clients, con- 
temptuous of dealers, and indifferent to public opinion. 

I found it necessary to point out this comparison to 
Mary. And what she said was : 

" It's very different with painters. Their work lives 
on after them. A musician has to make his effect 
while he lives. He leaves nothing behind — unless he's 
a composer. It's quite natural for that dirty little 
genius to be indifferent, and for Laura to be ambitious 
for success." 

Nothing could ever shake Mary's loyalty to Laura. 


This took place at the time when I was living with 
Laura in Slocombe Street, and when we were beginning 


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to get on each other's nerves. My romantic drama was 
a distinct fizzle. I gave it up haK-way through the 
third act I explained to Mary that it was really 
Laura's fault. I could not work in the same house 
with her. And Mary said: 

" Nonsense ! you could if you were keen enough." 

Then I knew that that was true. I wasn't keen 
enough. There must be something else. I settled 
down to a course of hard reading. I joined Mudie's 
and borrowed books from the Copleys! I waded through 
hundreds of pages of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations 
before I realised that it meant nothing to me at all. 
I read Kant and Comte and Herbert Spencer, and didn't 
understand them. It all seemed higgledy-piggledy. 
Meredith appeared to write about snobs, Hardy about 
people I cQdn't know, Stevenson about long-winded 
pirates. I went on and on. I was like that steward 
on the steamer in Maxim Gorky's autobiography, In the 
World, who believed that if he could only go on long 
enough reading books he would eventually come to the 
book. But I never could get to the book. I had ex- 
hausted Shakespeare at school, at the time when I be- 
lieved that the last word had been said by Marcus 
Aurelius. Possibly I was right. In any case, I was 
at a diflScult age. 

What I really liked to do was to wander about the 
streets, and talk to cabmen and coffee-stall keepers, or 
to go over and see my father and casually stroll into the 
bar, and listen to conversations between Mr. Small and 
his friend. 

My father took the defection of Laura and me very 
well. He was always pleased to see us. He seemed 
rather amused than otherwise. He was always proud 
to read about Laura's performances in the newspapers, 
but he never went to hear her in public, except on the 
occasion when she made her debut. And then he ex- 


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pressed the opinion that he did not care for music in 
a concert-hall. He preferred it in the parlour upstairs 
of " The Duchess of Pless," I went to see him two or 
three times a week, and Laura about once a fortnight. 
To our relief he never expressed any desire to meet the 
Copleys or any other of our friends. He seemed to 
appreciate the fact that we had drifted into a different 
set, and that it was quite natural and inevitable. Curi- 
ously enough, stepmother resented our departure more 
than he did. She hinted that it was unkind, and that 
we had gone away because we were ashamed of the es- 
tablishment, and of our " swell friends '^ getting to know 
our connection with it. There was a horrid element 
of truth in this, and that was why I made a point of 
going whenever I could. 

I enjoyed a glorious five days when I served in the 
bar. Father was very opposed to it, but he eventually 
gave way. He was laid up with a bad cold, and one of 
the barmaids had suddenly gone off without warning 
with a local bedstead manufacturer. They were very 
short-handed, and business was brisk. I found the ex- 
perience very entertaining. I made several friends in 
each of the bars. No one impressed me more than Mr. 
Timble. He was the local undertaker. A large, florid 
man, always dressed in heavy mourning, he carried the 
atmosphere of his mournful profession with him wheiv 
ever he went Every funeral seemed to affect him as 
though it were that of his dearest friend. He spoke in 
a deep, hushed voice. His pale, protruding eyes seemed 
ever on the verge of tears. He visited the bar several 
times a day, and I always expected him to herald his 
request for a whisky-and-soda with the usual formula: 
" In the midst of life we are in death." But he al- 
ways bowed solemnly, and said: 

" Well, young Mr. Purbeck, and how is your father ? '' 
When I had reported, he always continued : 


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" I have known your father for fourteen years. An 
honourable and upright man, sir ; a man to be respected. 
I hope his son will be worthy of him, I'll take a small 
Scotch with a splash, please." 

I have an idea that he took advantage of my father's 
absence. I don't believe father would have allowed him 
as many drinks as he ordered. He sometimes had as 
many as ten or twelve whiskies during the day. It did 
not appear to affect him very seriously, except that he 
became more humid and lugubrious, and perhaps a little 
more confiding. He told me of some of the diflSculties 
of his profession, the unreliability of mutes who were 
given to insobriety and giggled on the hearse, the lack 
of imagination of well-to-do people over the possibili- 
ties of an impressive funeral, the ingratitude of next- 
of-kin, the vulgar ostentation of the poor, who always 
demanded plumes which they could not afford. I gath- 
ered that he had this in common with my father, that 
they both believed that there was a proper way to 
conduct everything: a government, a fimeral, or a 

One evening he came into the bar in a great state 
of consternation. The only other person there was Mr. 
Peel, the estate agent. Mr. Timble bowed to me, and 
his lips quivered. He went through the usual formali- 
ties, but he drank his whisky at a gulp and ordered 
another. Then, drawing Mr. Peel and myself into a 
confiding group, he said : 

*^ Gentlemen, I have had a most distressing experi- 
ence. I have been in the funeral-furnishing trade for 
forty-three years, and I have never had a more distress- 
ing experience." 

Mr. Peel, a foxy little. man, said, " Go on! " 

" I had the case to-day of Mrs. Boddice, the widow 
of Charles Boddice, the corn-merchant. Poor thing! 
She was seventy-two, and she died from double pneu- 


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monia. She left eleven grown-up children. She had 
never lost a child in her life; an admirable woman." 

" I remember 'er/' said Mr. Peel. " She 'ad a slight 
moustache and used to keep a lot of little birds in 

Mr. Timble drank, and continued: 

" It is a customary and proper thing, as you know, 
during a funeral procession, for gentlemen in the streets 
to remove their hats. It is a little point about which 
I am peculiarly sensitive. I always ride on the hearse 
myself, and I make a particular note of this observance. 
If it has been generally respected, I consider the funeral 
to have been a success. If it is only partially or spas- 
modically done, I consider it to be a failure. It appears 
to me that people are becoming more and more irreli- 
gious. The funeral of Mrs. Boddice this afternoon was 
treated with scant respect. I was not surprised that 
Mr. James Boddice, who was riding in the first carriage, 
was extremely indignant. It is almost what I might 
call part of the perquisites which one expects with a, 
funeral for which one has paid ten or fifteen pounds. 
At the comer of the Highgate Road the whole proces- 
sion was held up ioj^ a few minutes by the traflSc. At 
the comer were three loafers, leaning against a lamp- 
post, talking and spitting. They ignored our — cor- 
tege. I quite sympathised then with Mr. James Bod- 
dice, who, unable to contain himself any longer, thrust 
his head out of the window and exclaimed : ^ Hi, you 
there I Take off your 'ats ! ' And then, gentlemen, 
what do you think happened ? " 

" Go on ! " said Mr. Peel, incredulous of whatever 
was coming. 

" The three loafers turned round and looked at us. 
Then one of them suddenly took off his hat and cheered! 
Then the others followed suit, and as we proceeded up 
the hill these three ruffians cheered and cheered as 


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though it was — a Lord Mayor's Show ! Can you be- 
lieve it ? . . . Can you imagine it ? " 

" Go on 1" said Peel. 

Yes, I could imagine it, but I had to duck behind 
the shelves of bottles to focus the scena I could not 
allow Mr. Timble to see my face. He would never 
afterwards hold out any hope that I should be worthy of 
my father. It was positive torture. I hunted for 
some mysterious bottle for a long time. . . . What a 
scene ! And why not ? Why should the worthy cornr 
merchant's widow be cheered at her wedding, when she 
had done nothing, and not get a hand at her funeral 
after an honourable life, the mother of eleven, and not 
losing one? Oh, James! James! what have you got 
to be indignant about? ... I shall never be able to 
fill my father's shoes. What would they think of me 
at Woodstack if they saw me handing over two pints 
of mild-and-bitter to a cabman and his friend? Even 
Eadic would disapprove. Not of the act itself, but of 
the waste of time. I ought to be doing something 
dynamic, moving, low-toned • • . immortiJ. 


I wrote to Mary about it, and she said, " Of course 
you must help your father, if he is in difficulties." 

Mary was never wrong. She was always completely 
in tune. I can't — you may think it funny of me, but 
I can't — tell you of all the incidents which led up to 
our wedding. There are some things one doesn't talk 
about to one's dearest friends. After all, it is no 
business of yoats. I would rather not talk about it. 
I would rather talk about those socks. 

Mary had two hundred a year of her own, and Mrs. 
Copley offered us the lease of a small house in St. 
John's Wood as a wedding present. So we decided 


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that three hundred and fifty was ample to marry on^ 
and there was no point in waiting. I had no career, 
and no ambitions. My only obsession at that time was 
to marry Mary. There is one thing I would like to 
say about us. I did not know till I met her how funny 
I was. To Mary I was a perfect scream. She was 
always doubling up with laughter over met 

" You are a funny old thing ! " she would say as 
she undid my tie and re-tied it She laughed when she 
showed me how to wash my hands and clean my finger- 
nails. She laughed when she showed me how to walk, 
and put on a hat, and play tennis, and to rush and open 
a door for a lady when she was going out of the room. 
I must have been the funniest thing that ever lived. 

We were married at Woodstack, in the village church. 
It was what the Copleys called a quite informal wed- 
ding. I only got there in time by the skin of my 
teeth. The fact was, I went down from town, and as 
I was rather late I thought I would get a shave at 
Waterloo station. I allowed myself twenty minutes for 
this, but as it happened, there were two other men 
waiting, and only one barber, A boy was having his 
hair cut when I went in, and the barber was just fin- 
ishing. I was in a fever of agitation. The first man 
had a shave and was disposed of in five minutes. I 
reckoned that if the other man only took the same time 
I should just have time for my shave, with five minutes 
over to catch the train. But the second man seaned to 
have an annoying stubbly growth that took a long time^ 
and the barber was of the oily, conversational type. 
The seconds were ticking away. Curse him ! He was 
droning on about some ridiculous murder case at Wal- 
thamstow, his sharp, pointed nose sticking up in the 
air. How I hated the man! Five minutes were al- 
ready up. Six minutes. Six and a half — nowl 

" I think I'll have a shampoo, please." 


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Tears started to my eyes. 

" My God, sir ! " I said. " Are you obliged to have 
a shampoo? It doesn't seem at all necessary. I'm 
in a frightful hurry." 

The man looked round at me, and the barber dropped 
a towel. How could I possibly explain? I said: 
" Oh, go to the devil, then ! " and I dashed out of the 

Father was waiting for me on the train, in a great 
state of excitement, thinking I was not coming. He 
had been there for fifty minutes. He usually got to a 
station an hour before his train was due to start. 

I arrived at Woodstack unshorn. A cab was waiting 
for us. The ceremony was due in half an hour. We 
told the driver to drive to the village barber's. When 
we got there we found that he had shut up his shop 
and gone to London to buy a bicycle. 

" What the devil does a barber want with a bicycle ? " 
I said savagely to his wife. I was quite unreasonable. 
The only thing to do was to go to the Copleys' and 
borrow Giles' razor. And then father came out with 
one of his annoying superstitions. It wouldn't do at 
all. A brid^room must never see the bride on the wed- 
ding day till he meets her at the church. I gave it up. 

" Very well, then," I said. " I'll get married dirty." 

I got married dirty, and Mary seemed to think that 
this was screamingly funny, too, especially when the 
first thing I had to do after the ceremony was to borrow 
Giles' razor and have a shave. 

It was father's first meeting with the Copleys, and 
he came through the ordeal very well. He was the 
only man who appeared in a frock-coat and top-hat, 
with a white button-hole. I was married in a tweed 
suit and Mary in a navy blue travelling coat and skirt. 
There were about fifteen or twenty people at the recep- 
tion. Neither stepmother nor Uncle Stephen was able 


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to come, but Laura might have been the hostess. She 
had on a wonderful light blue frock, with a picture- 
hat trimmed with daisies. I think father was rather 
prepared for the Woodstack crowd. Many things must 
have surprised him, but he did not show it. No one 
was in proper wedding garb. There was no champagne, 
only hock and tea. There were no speeches. Every- 
one was pleasant, informal, rather high-spirited, and 
anxious to avoid any display of emotion. It must have 
been different from that when he was a young man. 
He was very quiet and formal. What was he thinking 
of it all ? Once I heard him addressing a little speech 
to Mrs. Copley. I could not catch what he said, but 
I was pleased to see her face light up with surprised 
pleasure. He kissed Mary, and said, " Well, God bless 
you, little girl 1 '^ Quite a success, the old man. . . . 

" A perfect old dear ! " Mary told me in the train. 

It was an hour later, in the train, that the climax 
arrived. Mary suddenly said: "What have you got 
on ? ^' and she lifted up the leg of one of my trousers. 

" What do you mean ? " I said. 

" Those are not the socks I sent you. They were 
black, with a light blue clock." 

" Well ! " I answered, and I looked down and beheld 
a woolly brown sock. " Oh ! " I murmured, and I 
pulled up the leg of my other trouser. Then Mary 
collapsed, and I was obliged to laugh too. The other 
sock was black with a light blue clock. 

" I must have muddled them up," I stuttered. 

" Muddled them up ! Oh, you old booby ! " 

" I don't think * booby ' is a right word to employ to 
your husband." 

But Mary was completely finished. She rocked back- 
wards and forwards. It was extremely difficult to 
snatch a piece of her fugitive face to kiss. 

When she eventually recovered she said that at Oke- 


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hampton she would really have to see what I had 
packed. We stayed the night at an hotel there. I 
had packed a goodly number of things, including a bath 
thermometer and some dirty collars, but no socks at all. 

" It's quite time you had someone to look after you," 
she said. " To-morrow morning we shall have to go 

But, strangely enough, on the morrow even Mary 
seemed absent-minded. We both forgot all about the 
socks. We drove out to an inn right away on Dartmoor, 
and then we remembered. There were no shops within 
five miles of our inn. I spent the first we^ of my 
honeymoon wearing one brown woolly sock and one 
black one with a light blue clock. A trivial incident, 
perhaps, but it is queer how sometimes a trivial inci- 
dent, about socks, for instance, may have an important 
bearing on one's whole life. 


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NURSE DIPPER was a privileged person. An 
old friend of the Copley family, old in face 
and young in body, very alert and business- 
like. She picked up my hat and thrust it into my hand. 

" Now then," she said, " we want to get rid of you. 
You go for a good sharp walk, and come back in about 
an hour and a half. It^l be all right. Don't worry." 

The door snapped to, and I was out alone in the rain. 
I raced away into the night like a criminal escaping 
from justice. I was pursued by a demon hissing into 
my ear that I was running away, that I was a coward. 
I wanted to go back and I wanted to go on. I must 
cover so many miles. The only light in this dark sea 
of fear and remorse was that I must do precisely what 
the nurse told me. I looked at my watch under a street 
lamp. A quarter to eleven. I had got to go on walking 
till twelve-fifteen. At twelve-fifteen to the second I 
should slip my latchkey into the door. To be told what ? 
. . . Horrid little visions danced before my eyes. I 
could see myself in the hall, the drawn face of Nurse 
Dipper, perhaps stepmother. . . . Who would break 
the news to me ? What fools, cowards, and egoists are 
men. We take everything we want, and when the price 
has got to be paid we are not there. On and on I rushed 
. . . We are spendthrifts, defaulting bankrupts. It is 
all so easy, natural, pleasant, so morally defensible. 
We are so secure in our citadel of sense-discretion. I 



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wanted to get to the river, or somewhere where there 
was open space, and there appeared to be nothing but 
narrow streets, muffled figures, loiterers, 'buses, and 

And they all appeared far away and unreal. What 
was real was that room, with Mary lying in her anguish. 
Perhaps at this very moment that tall doctor who had 
arrived with the peculiar-shaped bag . . . And I could 
do nothing; I was turned out in the rain, like a dog. 
How cruel is this arbitrament of fate! To those we 
love we bring unspeakable suffering, which we can 
neither share in nor assuage. We do it consciously. 
She endures it consciously, faiowing that nothing is pro- 
duced without suffering. The history of life is a story 
of epochs of travail, following one after another. 
Nature is like a process of preparing banquets, and 
clearing up after them, and then preparing for another 

She is like a housewife, knowing that everything she 
does will have to be done again. Directly the house- 
wife dusts a table, the dust begins to collect again. 
Directly she cooks a meal, someone devours it, and 
she has to b^n to think of the next. She is sur- 
rounded by destroyers, people who are always undoing 
whatever she has accomplished. And she knows she 
dare not stop. 

A horse-tram came leisurely round the comer, with 
bells tinkling — I must be somewhere in Camden Town 
— the horses trotting indifferently. Horses ! Strange, 
at that tragic hour, I should be consmned with another 
and most unlikely vision; A horse-race ! . . . K it had 
not been for a horse-raiee I should probably not have 
been there at that moment. Someone had described it 
to me. The previous year, a race — I think it was the 
Cesarewitch — had been contested by a field of fourteen 
horses, but it was considered a foregone conclusion. 


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The favourite, " Mohair," was considered a certainly. 
I have never been to a horse-race in my life, and I had 
certainly never heard of " Mohair " or any other horse. 
But this race I had seen again and again in imagina- 

And on this night the ridiculous spectacle danced 
vividly before ma 

" Mohair " broke away and had a clear field. The 
horse exceeded the wildest expectations of its backers. 
The whole thing appeared to be over. The crowd were 
only becoming interested in seeing which of the others 
would come in second and third. They were bunched 
together indescribably. Entering the flat, ^^ Mohair'* 
suddenly crossed its legs and fell. There was a yell of 
excitement The jockeys, seeing what had happened, 
urged their beasts on frenziedly. Near the winning- 
post three appeared to detach themselves from the rest. 
There was a confusion of black necks, and of blue, yel- 
low, and claret-coloured silk. No one was quite certain 
of tiie result. But when the flag went up it appeared 
that the race had been won by a horse' named " Baion- 
nette,'* a rank outsider. What has all this got to do 
with me? ... It may appear a singularly inappro- 
priate memory to have crossed my mind on that fateful 
evening to me. In some ways it imdoubtedly was. 
But it had happened that my Uncle Stephen was at 
that race, and he had backed " Baionnetl^e " for a 
hundred pounds. His reasons for backing this par- 
ticular horse were obscure. He had just inherited a 
small legacy, and he announced his intention to give 
up horse-racing entirely. The Cesarewitch was to be 
his last plunge, and he told us that he had set aside " a 
certain sum for a certain purpose." This certain pur- 
pose was revealed later. When the settling-up came. 
Uncle Stephen had netted over six thousand pounds over 
the race. 


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I shall never forget the night when he came to break 
the news to us. He telegraphed to Laura to be at " The 
Duchess of Pless " at nine o'clock, on very important 
business. He came into the parlour, tugging feverishly 
at his heavy black moustache. He was pretending to 
be very self -restrained, but he was patently in a great 
state of excitement. His eyes glowed, and he could not 
sit down. I think he had been driiiing rather more 
than was good for him, but he was quite lucid and co- 
herent. He came straight to the point. He said : 

" Laura and Tom, I have always wanted to do some- 
thing for you. And now I'm glad to say I have my 
chance. I don't believe in leaving people money when 
you die, if you can do anything for them before. It's 
when you're starting on your career that it's valuable. 
I propose to settle three thousand pounds on each of 
you kids." 


The receipt of this news was almost unnerving. 
Laura gave a cry and threw her arms round his neck 
and kissed him. While so occupied, I was instantly 
torn between two emotions — the wild thrill of excite- 
ment shared with Laura, and a peculiar apprehension 
regarding my father. Stepmother and I both looked 
at him. He was very solemn. When Laura had com- 
pleted her manifestation of love — which, by the way, 
was unique of its kind, for she always voted Uncle 
Stephen " an old stick " — father said : 

"What do you mean, Stephen?" 

Then uncle told us about the horse-race, and Laura 
clapped her hands and said: "How ripping!" But 
father shook his head and said: 

" It's very kind, Steve ; very kind. But no good 
comes of . . . money like that" 

And Uncle Stephen threw back his head and laughed. 


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" Take it or leave it," he said. 

Laura's eyes flashed. " I know I'm jolly well going 
to take it," she exclaimed. " It means recitals, orches- 
tral concerts, Berlin, Frankfort, Vienna — everything. 
Everything! It makes all the difference to your 

I could not escape a momentary and surprising vision 
of Laura playing at an orchestral concert in Vienna 
because " Baionnette " had pushed past the post in front 
of another horse by the tip of his nose. 

Of course, no one could prevent Laura taking the 
money. She was of age. But neither of the brothers 
appeared directly concerned with her. There was an 
indecisive duel of the eyes. A brief fragmentary ar- 
gument on betting between them. 

" It's chance. It's all chanca Everything is 
chance," said Uncle Stephen. 

"No, no. There's honest dealing. There's fair 
dealing. It's supply and demand." 

" Isn't it often just chance who comes into your bar, 
and what they spend ? " 

" They come because they get good value." 

" Isn't it chance that one man is bom a millionaire 
and another a crossing-sweeper ? " 

" No, no ; it's heredity." 

" Who's going to say ? Isn't it a gamble on the Stock 
Exchange? Isn't it often a fool who will make ten 
thousand a year, and a clever man two hundred ? Back 
your fancy, I say, and go in and win. If you lose, take 
it like a sportsman." 

Suddenly turning to me, he said: 

"What do you say, Tom?" 

I replied, " I think you're right, uncle." 

It was an awful moment. I knew I was betraying 
my father. I believed that he was right, and I believed 
that Uncle Stephen was right But undoubtedly my 


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dominant feeling was personal ambition. I had been 
an imsuccessful clerk in a wall-paper business for over 
a year, and here was salvation. I wanted the money. 
I wanted to escape. I wanted to marry Mary. I was 
like Laura, only I had not my plan so definitely 
mapped out. Suddenly I had an inspiration. 

" After all, guv'nor/' I said, " horse-racing is recog- 
nised by the State." 

My father gave me a surprised look. I knew what he 
was thinking, " Is the State the arbiter of my con- 
science ? " but he said nothing. He fumbled his way 
through the furniture and shrugged his shoulders, as 
though he were casting us off. Stepmother followed him 
indecisively. She was bewildered by the news. At 
the same time she could not quite understand father's 
attitude. One cannot reject a fortune so easily. She 
was sorry for everybody, and anxious for a compromise 

"Well, well, Stephen," she said in her tremulous 
voice, " I'm sure it's very kind of you. The children 
must be very grateful. Jim is tired. You must come 
and talk it over again soon." 

We all seemed to fall apart. Each of us was con- 
sumed with the individual significance of the news. 
Uncle Stephen was enjoying it most, for he knew that 
we should accept. Laura had forgotten about us all, 
even her benefactor. Her eyes were dancing with the 
anticipation of a thousand nights of triumph. And I, 
too, fell into a reverie of selfish delights. 


I need hardly say that my thoughts had flown in- 
stantly to Mary. I, too, forgot my benefactor. Within 
the space of a few seconds my whole outlook on life 
shifted on to a different plana I was going up and up. 
All the black apprehensions of those previous years van- 


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ished. With Laura I had been to the Copley8^ I had 
walked with Mary in the trim garden. I had sat 
with her under the oedar*tree, and watched the son 
setting on the Surrey hills. I had slept in a white- 
panelled room with chintz curtains. I had spent days 
amongst old furniture and good pictures, living with 
people who moved softly and spoke in gentle voices. 
And the realisation of the sordid contrast of my 
father's bars had almost paralysed my will. This was 
a different world entirely, and one I was not schooled 
to. I began to understand Laura and her references 
to the " filthy pub." What had appeared to me before 
to be rich and wonderfully moving became suddenly 
drab and depressing. It could never be the same again. 
But my prospects of moving up into this more alluring 
world seemed utterly remote. I would never dare to 
make love to Mary, although she filled my waking 
dreams. She was an intangible goddess sent to tor- 
ment me. I was a clerk in a wall-paper firm, and my 
father was a publican. My prospects were n^ligible. 
I had not even ambition. I must put it all away. 
And then suddenly ..." Baionnette '^ won by a nose ! 
If " Mohair " hadn't fallen — if one of the other horses 
had made the slightest extra exertion ^ — everything 
would be as it was. But now? Blindly I had 
groped my way to Unde Stephen and pressed his 

" That's all right, my boy," he saicLg. '^ Come over 
on Sunday morning. We'll have a kn8ra:-up." 

Laura and I were in revolt. We behaved disgust- 
ingly. There was no quarrel with my father, no word 
of recrimination. But within a month I had left " The 
Duchess of Pless " and had gone to share a maisonnette 
with Laura in Baker Street We spent two hundred 
pounds on furnishing it. It was a kind of miniature 
Copleys'. We went Copley-mad. We bought chintz 


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and cretonne^ and an oak gate-1^ table, and rush-seated 
chairs. I threw up my situation in the wall-paper firm 
and began to write a romantic drama. The whole thing 
was like a dream. We entertained students, went to 
theatres and picture-galleries, dined out at restaurants, 
and made Woodstack, the Copleys' house, the focus of 
all our activities. 


As I raced along on that fateful night in the life of 
Mary and myself, all these events danced before my 
mind, dominated by the ridiculous spectacle of a horse 
thrusting forward its nose. The child who was now 
being bom probably owed its very existence to this 
fortuitous circumstance. Uncle Stephen was right. 
It is all chance. Every one of us is the plaything of a 
long line of gamblers. The upsetting of a cup five 
hundred years ago, a letter written in the Middle Ages, 
the lucky thrust of a claw in primordial times, and lo ! 
you and I are bom. Father, who polished his brown 
boots, and sold good beer, and sang hymns on Sunday 
morning, believed in a God who ordered things reason- 
ably, and he was quite wrong. Laura and I had found 
him out, and our attitudes could never again be recon- 
ciled. Not that we loved him the less, but we saw 
him as he was. Fate ordained that we should go on 
and leave him behind. 

The tussle of Laura and me to live together lasted 
nearly a year, and it ended disastrously. I cannot say 
to what extent the change in me was due to the change 
in my fortunes, but I do know that at that time — I 
was twenty-three — I was suddenly conscious of a tre- 
mendous psychological upheaval. I gained confidence 
in myself. I began to think and act independently. 
I was less shy in meeting peopla I "discovered" 


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writers who moved me profoundly. I became ambi- 
tious. And my ambitions and outlook were constantly 
clashing with Laura's. Laura, indeed, was impossible 
to live with, She worried me to death. We agreed on 
all main issues. We rejoiced in each other's society. 
Indeed, we were very fond of each other. It was over 
the little things that the trouble came. 

She was always practising, and the maisonnette was 
not large enough for me to escape from the sound of 
her fiddle. The scales, and arpeggios, and repetitions, 
and double-stoppings got on my nerves. I had to listen. 
She was always upbraiding me for my untidy habits. 
She was always losing her latchkey, or her muflf. She 
was always bursting in on me to tell me the details of 
some scandalous behaviour by some concert-manager. 
As I stated before, there was always " something do- 
ing " with Laura. I could not be in the same building 
without being conscious of her. Her personality was 
too pronounced to live with. Things that appeared to 
me to be of no consequence at all would be enlarged by 
her out of all proportion. At one moment she would 
be laughing, and then some little incident would lash 
her into a veritable fury. The most trivial thing would 
upset her for a whole morning. She enjoyed a fair 
measure of success in her profession, but the bitterness 
of it tortured her. She had not a man's sense of fatal- 
ism. She was always up in arms about something. 
She quarrelled with managers and agents and conduc- 
tors. Her life appeared one eternal protest By which 
you must not imagine that she thought only of success. 
She was developing into a very fine artist, and with a 
woman's logic she could not understand why the whole 
world did not instantly proclaim her as such. She had 
no faculty for making the best of her difficulties in that 
most difficult and corrupt of professions. 

And I felt that I was no comfort to her. She re- 


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quired constant attention and encoiirag^nent. ^^ She 
ought to get a husband," I thought, and then I shuddered 
at the prospect. Laura was almost destined to make a 
bloomer of it, to marry the wrong man. And I, too, 
had my profession, and my ambitions, requiring con- 
stant attention and encouragement, and instinctively I 
turned to — Mary. A brother and sister can never do 
anything more than run on parallel lines. They watch 
each other racing along. 

It was Mary who said to me : 

" We shall have an awful business marrying Laura 
to the right man. She's such a volcano." 

Mary was the most sensible person in the world. She 
was inevitable. I could think aloud in her presence, 
and my thoughts became pruned up, crystal-clear, fluid. 
When she was not with me I could almost talk with her. 
Although I always knew the quality of her mind, her 
statements always surprised me, as everything about 
her had the faculty of surprising me. Identical ac- 
tions had the eternal aspect of novelty. I would be 
haunted by the tilt of her little chin, and when away 
from her anxious to verify the impression. When I 
saw her again the tilt would be the same, but it would 
still be surprising and unexpected. Mary would be 
as easy to live with as Laura had proved difficult. 
That, I suppose, is why I took her away and made her 
suffer. ... 

I had heard her groan. I had heard her scream. 
Perhaps at that very moment she was . . . People were 
pouring out of a theatre. A large coloured poster de- 
picted a scene from " The Queen in Chancery." 
Mountebanks in fustian. A fat man asked me for a 
match. I gave him one, and stood there shivering. 
" Thank you so much. Good night." How trivial it 
all seemed. I could go back now. Time to go back. 
I had walked all this way rapidly, just in time to give 


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that fool a match, and now I must go back. If he only 
knew ! The god of chance again. 

I dared not think of Mary. She held me by an mi- 
breakable chain of episodes, necessities, passions. The 
communion of a year, and she held me like that 
Mending my socks, correcting my composition, select- 
ing my ties, managing me, humouring me, surprising 
me, shaping me. 

A woman walked the streets furtively a few paces 
ahead. She looked watchful but weary. A sudden 
mad desire for companionship with a suffering creature 
came over me. I overtook her and said : 

"What a night! It's cold. Why don't you walk 
quicker and keep warm ? " 

She turned her lifeless face to me and answered : 

" If I'd walked quicker you wouldn't have caught 
me up." 

" I'm no good to you. I only wanted to talk." 

" What's your game ? Ain't you coming home with 

" No. I can't. I'm worried. My wife's expecting 
a baby. I've got to get back." 

" You're a rum 'un, you are." 

" She may die. I'm nearly off my head. Even now, 
at this moment, she may . . ." 

" That's nothing, kid. I run that risk every day." 

I stopped and looked at her. Drawing out half-a- 
sovereign, I handed it to her. 

" Have a night off," I said. " You look tired. Just 
to wish me ludc, do ! " 

She looked at me suspiciously, and then thrust it 

" I don't want yer money." 

"All right," I said. "Good luck." And I hui- 
ried on. In a minute or two she caught me up and 
touched my arm. 


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"Here, kid," she said; "I've changed my mind. 
Give me the half thick 'un." 

I handed it to her in silence. She looked at it and 
dropped it into her bag. Then she gave my elbovir a 
little push, as though starting me on my journey, and 
said in a lighter voice : 

" That's all right, sonny. You're a good 'un. It's 
all in the game. Good luck to yer, and the woman, 
and the blinking kid ! " 

And she vanished round a comer. 

All in the game! One may do everything possible, 
and fail. One may do nothing, and succeed. Had I 
done anything to deserve a " blinking kid " ? It might 
go on and produce other " blinking kids." In the course 
of centuries I might be responsible for a whole race and 
a thousand people, as I was linked to some dim figure 
in the past, who was again linked to other dim figures. 

On the other hand, I might die out, like the tail of 
a comet hurtling through space. It was all in the 
game. Was God a gambler, like Uncle Stephen? It 
is not diflScult to breed, neither is it moral or immoral, 
organised, essential, or scientific. It is just casual, a 
chance. And yet the responsibility is unrealisable. 
A consumptive potter with an intemperate wife may 
have thirteen children. A Carlyle or a Shelley may 
have none. A magnificent woman may remain celibate 
till her death. One idle act may be the nucleus of 
a race or it may be the means of death. Leonardo da 
Vinci was probably the greatest man in all history: a 
painter, sculptor, architect, musician, poet, engineer, 
scientist, and philosopher — supreme at all these things 
— and he was the illegitimate son of a peasant woman. 
An accident! Tchaikovsky went mad. Heine was a 


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chronic invalid. Dostoievsky was an epileptic Shake- 
speare's children were dunces. If there was a reasoned 
order at the back of this breeding business, it eluded 
me completely. The only happy people were people 
like my father, who struck a circle round their lives 
and walked within it. People who could stand four- 
square to the winds of failure or success. Laura was 
unhappy. Mary — Mary was probably dying, a vic- 
tim to the mad freak that " Baionnette '' won by a 
nose ! 

And I — I should not be able to go on. There 
would be nowhere to pillow my thoughts; no guiding 
star on the lonely waters. I should drift about in a 
sea of melancholy amidst the uncharted isles of 
despair. . . . 

I passed a coffee-stall gleaming with copper and 
white plates. Half a dozen indiscriminate specimens 
of the flotsam of the big city were enjoying its hos- 
pitality. I looked at my watch. It was just twelve, 
and the house was round the comer. I would obey the 
nurse. I would not return until twelve-fifteen. I went 
up to the proprietor and ordered a cup of coffee. A 
stout wonian was eating sardines on toast. A sickly- 
looking youth was whispering into her ear. On the 
other side an indescribably dirty old man, with blood- 
shot eyes and a ferocious beard, was holding forth to 
an individual whose face I could not see. 

" I don't care what 'e is," he was exclaiming. " It 
isn't honourabla 'E never done the right thing by 
'er." (Mumbles from the other man.) " I don't care 
about that. I don't think any more of a man because 
'e wears gold sleeve-links and parts 'is 'air in the 
middle. What's a 'undred a year — or even a thou- 
sand a year — to a gal who can never be called respect- 
able again i " 

I wanted to say: 


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"You old prig! What does it matter, as long as 
she lives, as long as the child lives? What about 
Leonardo da Vinci ? " 

I gulped my coffee, and fled. Dishonourable, dis- 
honourable, dishonourable! What has honour got to 
do with you, you old ruffian? Or me? Or with any 
of the big tilings? My case was honourable enough, 
as far as that went, but on that night I wouldn't have 
cared, anyway. Life! The great thing is to live. 
The great thing is for Mary to live. One can adjust 
afterwards. It was all chance. 

The house was lighted up. I dropped my latchkey 
and fumbled against the door. It took me ages to 
find it again. I could not hear a sound. Again I 
pressed it in the lock and turned it. The light in the 
hall blinded me. There was the strong smell of anti- 
septic. My heart was beating rapidly. I groped my 
way into the light. Someone tripped across the hall 
with a case, and started, to go upstairs. She turned 
when she saw me. It was Nurse Dipper. 

"Tou needn't look so scared," she said. "Every- 
thing is all right. TouVe got a dear little daughter." 

My father came out of the drawing-room and held 
out his hand to me. 


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NO one could poesibly work in a house where 
there's a baby. In comparison, even Laura 
would seem passive. A baby seems to be 
labouring under some eternal injustice^ as though it 

''I didn't want to come. But as you made me, 
youVe damn well got to do exactly what I yell for." 

When it is quiet it is even more insistent It is nec- 
essary then to leave one's work, and tip-toe upstairs 
and tap on the doc»-, and say : 

" Nurse, is Midge all right ? " (Midge being a di- 
minutive of Madeline.) 

It might be choking, or having rickets, or dying in its 
sleep. On my writing-desk is a book on InfantUe 
Diseases and Cures. It is a terrible book. I never 
thought that so much compressed peril could be got into 
such a small space. It brings out beads of perspira- 
tion on my temples. Work is out of the question. The 
trouble is, I can get no one with whom to share these 
nightmares. Mary has not read the book. I left it 
about for her to read. I thought she ought to read it, 
to be prepared. Once she picked it up and said : 

"What's this?" 

She glanced through half a page, and said, "Rub- 

Women are extraordinary. They have all sorts of 

innate senses and intuitions we wot not of. Mary does 

not seem to worry at all about Midge. She sings to it, 



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makes funny noises^ does all the necessary things. 
She overlooked me for some time. I hardly seemed to 
count. Then one day she said : 

" I think, dear, you ought to have a room out to work 
in. This house is too small." 

You must know that at that time I was a novelist. 
That is to say, I had begun to write an intensely real- 
istic modem novel, in the Kussian manner. It was 
Mary's idea that I should write a novel, and my idea to 
make it Bussian. I took some cockney characters and 
made them talk for pages about their souls, like the 
Brothers Karamazoff. It wasn't very good. 

There followed what might be called the Midge 
Period. For the first two years of our married life 
it was all Midge. I did eventually have a room out, 
but I was always darting home at unnecessary intervals, 
worrying about Midge, worrying about Mary. At the 
end of two years, Mary discovered that we were living 
above our income. This was very alarming. It seemed 
incredible that a huge sum like three hundred and fifty 
pounds shouldn't be sufficient to supply our simple re- 
quirements. It was obvious that I must abolish the 
Brothers Karamazoff and seek remunerative work. 
But this Mary would not listen to. She said : 

" No. I know what it is. If you just go and take 
on some clerical job you will go down the sink. But 
if you hang on, trying to do something hig, you will 
one day succeed." 

One day! • . . We argued about it for weeks, and 
then, of course, Mary had her way. I continued with 
my room, and household expenses were cut down. But 
I felt uncomfortable. I threw the Brothers Karam- 
azoff overboard and started another novel in a lighter 
key, and tried to write short stories. 

At that time Laura had just returned from a suc- 
cessful tour in the United States. She had made some 


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money, and was in very hl^ Bpirita. She came and 
stayed with ns. She made me feel drab. She was so 
vivid, forceftd. Her eyes were brighter than ever. 
Success was stamped all over her. Ajad yet I was not 
sure that success was doing her any good. 

" She will never quite be Laura again/' I thought 
In a hundred little ways she dazzl^ me, and disap- 
pointed me. She was the big artist, conscious of her 
furs, and name, and reckmie. Avid for praise, sensi- 
tive to criticism, on the alert for any opinion concerning 
herself, despising the unsuccessful. It was as though 
applause was still ringing in her ears, and she was 
hypnotised by it She jmid a kind of state visit to 
" The Duchess of Pless,'' kissed my father passion- 
ately, poured out the story of her triumphs into his 
ear, but was too occupied to ask after his affairs. And 
father beamed with pleasura 

" Well, well, well ! '' he said. " Becoming famous 
... eh? Fine! fine!" 

We had tea in the parlour, as of old, but nothing 
was said about the King of North Carolina or the King 
of South Carolina. Laura had made crowds of new 
friends, well-known conductors and artists, and wealthy 
patrons. She was very full of it I watched her look- 
ing round the stuffy little room, with its overcrowded 
Victorian furniture, and the wax fruit, and " The 
Death of Wolfe." She made no comment, but I could 
tell by her eyes that she had the measure of it They 
glittered critically. 

" Laura is cruel," I thought, and then 

" No; she isn't cruel. She's hypnotised, that's all." 


I discovered that I was right, the following evening. 
Laura came into my room. She was a little unstrung. 


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She had been to a concert in the afternoon, and heard 
Bcme big artist play Beethoven's E Flat Concerta Her 
mind was barging about in all directions. I knew she 
was in one of her difficult moods. She was tired, sorry 
for herself, hungry for sympathy. She suddenly cried. 

" What's the matter, old girl ? " I said. 

" Oh, I don't know. I was thinking of dad, I think." 

"Dad! Why? He's all right" 

" You go and see him pretty often, don't you, Tom ? " 

" Of course I do. Several times a week." 

"While they were playing the slow movement, I 
suddenly began thinking about — mother. I don't 
think we've treated him very well, old boy; do you? 
. . . Lonely. He must be lonely sometimes, don't you 
think ? Such a long time ago. The years seem to make 
barriers, don't they? One can't help him, quite like 
that. I try and Ihink of him and mother when they 
were young like we are. It's all so far away. How 
beastly that we grow old and — get a sort of crust on." 

" I think the guv'nor's quite happy, you know." 

" Stepmother's a dear, but it can never be the same." 

" I wasn't thinking of stepmother. I think he gets 
a lot of pleasure out of — little things." 

Laura dabbed her eyes, and pecked me on the cheek. 

" I must go more often. I must try and go every 
day. There's such a lot to do . . ." 

Laura did indeed go the next evening, but she came 
back in a bad temper. A week later she went off to 
the South of France with a girl friend. 

Mary visited my father regularly. She went at least 
once a we^ She took him some patent pipe-cleaners, 
gave him wrinkles about keeping the pewter bright, 
found him a new cook, when the fourth after " the Zulu 
pudding " had left, read to him when his eyes were bad, 
and sent him photographs of " the Midge." 

Scnnetimes he and stepmother would come and dine 

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with us at midday on Sunday. He was always very 
jovial and gay. Afterwards Mary and I would leave 
them alone in the drawing-room to have a nap, whilst 
she and I took the Midge out in a pram« 

" Poor old dears 1 '^ Mary would say, and I would 
sigh in agreement. 

The young are always pitying the old. It is for the 
most part a quite unnecessary attention. The old do 
not need it As a matter of fact, when the young say 
and feel these things it is too often disguised pity for 
themselves, a too vivid anticipation. They do not re- 
alise that the '^ crust " is only a mantle of adjustment 

Those were golden days. Life seemed too crowded to 
do anything with. My hands were full of the precious 
stuff, and I could do nothing but idly watch the drift 
of it through my fingers. We made several friends, and 
indulged in the usual social suburban diversions. We 
spent week-ends at Woodstack, went for short excursions, 
visited the picture^alleries, and looked in the shops. 
But we could never be away for long. There was the 
evening ceremony of bathing the Midge, an affair con- 
ducted with all the preparation and pomp of a Eoman 
Te Deum. 

If we went to a theatre it was necessary to creep into 
her room on our return and watch Madeline asleep. It 
is a curious thing that she was always Madeline to me 
when she was asleep, and the Midge when she was awake. 
Mary always kissed her downy skull, but she could do 
this without waking her up. For my part, I found it 
suflScient to hold my face very close to hers and smell 
her. She had a wonderful tickly smell that made 0!»e 
want to laugh. Mary said it was disgusting the way 
I did this — like an animal. My defence was that at 
present we really had nothing more in common than our 
animal instincts. I hadn't observed any particular 
spiritual advance on Madeline's part. In reply to which 


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Mary naturally told me not to be an idiot^ and to turn 
off the light in the hall. 

My short stories were all returned from magazine' 
editors with the little printed slip of regrets. The 
novel in the lighter key made but desultory progress. 

One day I took Mary to task about it. I said : 

"Look here, darling; I don't believe it's any good. 
Fm nearly twenty-six, and I've done absolutely nothing. 
I'm interested in all this stuff, but it doesn't come off. 
I shall have to chuck it and try something else." 

Mary puckered her brow, and thought for some 
seconds. Then she said: 

" Well, I don't care what you do, darling. Only I 
won't have you taking on a job just for the sake of a 
job. It must be something which leads somewhere. It 
must have ambition at the back of it." 

I kissed her with fervour. I was enormously re- 
lieved* I felt myself tingling with ambition. 


I know quite well that at that time, if I had not been 
married to Mary, I should have gone and assisted my 
father at " The Duchess of Pless." And I think he 
would have liked to have me. He was becoming a little 
less brisk in his movements, and the days tired him. 
But I knew that to be a glorified potman would be un- 
worthy of Mary. It led nowhera Only, perhaps, to 
freedom and good-fellowship. . . . Queer, what a hold 
the atmosphere of that place had over me. I did not 
drink, myself, except occasionally a glass of port. But 
I liked to watch the people who came there, and listen 
to their talk. It was a kind of clearing-house of charac- 
ter. Very often in the evening, when we entertained 
intimate friends, I would give an imitation of Mr. 
Timble discoursing on the decadence of funeral etiquette, 

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or old Ifrs. Still analysing her sequence of husbands. 
I did not tell our guests that these were actual people 
who were themselves the guests of my father. I was 
still too much of a snob. I presented them as imag- 
inary types. Our friends seemed to find them diverting. 
Uncle Stephen said that if I got a little more " biff-bi£F " 
into them, they would be worth doing in public This 
led to a discussion about going on the stage. Then 
visions of long tours away from Mary and Midge finally 
dissipated the idea. I was no further on. While Mary 
and I were discussing the ever-present subject one even- 
ing, our little ant-heap was disturbed by a bomb-shell 
from Laura. It arrived in the form of a long tel^ram 
from Edinburgh, announcing the fact that she was en- 
gaged to Edgar Beyfus, the concert agent and im- 

"My God! it's the wrong man, of course! " I ex- 

" How do you know ? '' said Mary. 

" I feel it in my bones.'' 

" Don't be an ass. He may be quite all right. Do 
you know anything about him ? " 

" Never heard of the juggins. But why so sudden t 
Why an impresario ? An impresario suggests someone 
to help her career, don't you see ? Damn her career ! " 

" Tom, don't be so stupidly unreasonable." 

" Well, can't you see it ? He'll be a fat, influential 
Jew, with pots of money, who can pull the strings of 
concert-work all over Europe. Ton see if I'm not 

" I'm sure you're wrong. Laura's no fool. She'd 
never marry a man she didn't love." 

" Wouldn't she ! With Laura it's the career fibret, and 
love — also ran." 

" You're mean and unkind, and I hate you." 

I soon put that right; then I snatched my hat and 


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went out. Laura, Laura, Laura! How awful! I 
could have wept. Laura never ought to marry. She 
was one of those people foredoomed to tragedy. I was 
convinced that this man was the wrong one. I walked 
up to Hampstead Heath, visualising him and cursing 
him. I thought no more about my career. 

We heard no more from Laura for eight days. She 
never wrote letters if there was a tel^raph-office handy. 
On the eighth day we received another telegram to say 
that she was back in London and that she was bringing 
him to see us that evening. 

Edgar Beyfus was not at all like I had imagined. 
He was young, tall, rather good-looking, not a Jew. He 
had dark eyes, a dark moustache, and a pleasant smile. 
He was well-dressed but not over-dressed ; and his man- 
ners were irreproachable. He always said the right 
thing, and he was very friendly to us. I was immensely 
relieved. We sat in our little drawing-room and talked 
till nearly twelve o'clock. It was a love-affair all right. 
One had only to note the way they kept looking at each 
other. Laura seemed quite different. She was gentler 
and more pliable. Her eyes swam in a mist of dreams. 
She hardly spoke about her career. She was tenderness 
itself. She asked after all our doings. I had never 
known her so sympathetic She went upstairs with 
Mary to see the baby. When she came down, her eyes 
were dancing. 

" Isn't she a darling 1 " she said. " I kissed her on 
the ear, and it made me feel all cosy inside." 

Then Edgar had to go up, and he expressed the sensa- 
tion of feeling " all cosy inside." He admired our 
furniture, and the arrangement of the little rooms. He 
was perfectly charming. 

" Thank God! Thank God! " I kept on thinking to 
myself. "He's all right He's quite a success. I 
shall like him." 


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When they went, I walked with them to the end of 
the road. We were all very merry. We fixed an ap- 
pointment for the following week. Laura kisaed me, 
and said: 

" Good-bye, dear old boy.'* 

It was an unusual endearment. When I got back, I 
found Mary kneeling in front of the fire, and looking 
very grave. 

" Well ? '' I said. " That's all right, isn't it 1 " 

She did not answer, and I repeated : 


Without looking at me, she said: 

" You were right, Tom." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" He's the wrong man ! " 

Women are incredibla 


The following week I began my career as a scene- 
painter. It came about through meeting a young man 
called Duncan Brice, at a friend's house. He was a 
jolly, rotund little person, and he told me he was work- 
ing at the Becher Studios. The Becher Studios turned 
out to be a large scene-painting emporium in Padding- 
ton. He invited me to go and inspect them. The place 
immediately fascinated me. When I beheld an enor- 
mous woodlands glade all wet with size, I suddenly 

" Here is my job in life." 

I had always had a certain aptitude for drawing, but 
never suflSciently pronounced to encourage me to give 
up everything to be a painter. But this was a pro- 
fession of its own. I liked the smell of size, and the 
little scale models, and men in white blouses up on a 
scaffolding, splashing away with enormous brushes, the 


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crude colours that looked so well a little way off, the 
sense of the theatre. I was introduced to Mr. Julius 
Becher himself, a large, genial man with the stump of a 
cigarette lost in his beard. 

I reported the matter to Mary, and then I wrote to 
him. The end of it was, he agreed to let me go and 
work there. For the first six months I was to receive 
no salary, and at the end of that time he said he " would 

I had not been so keen on anything for a long time. 
The prospect seemed to hold out the joy of painting with- 
out demanding that intense concentration and subtlety 
which I had not got, and the joy of the theatre without 
its nerve-strain and late hours. They were a most con- 
genial company. Mr. Becher used to drink enormous 
quantities of beer. He kept a barrel in the corner of 
the studio, and the beer was supplied free to the staff. 
He had a great sense of solemn fun. He never smiled, 
but the men called him " uncle " and were always rag- 
ging him good-humouredly. He had a huge and power- 
ful voice, and he wjis always striking ridiculous attitudes 
and declaiming fake Shakespeare. There was a small 
boy whom he called " Launcelot Qobbo," whose duty it 
was to keep his chief constantly supplied with liquid 
refreshment. He would suddenly stand up and mop 
his brow and exclaim : 

"Boy! • . . Wassail!" 

Launcelot Gobbo would immediately rush and fill a 
large pewter tankard with beer, and bring it to hinu 
Then a conversation like this would follow : 

" Ah ! what is this leprous distilment ? " 

" Beer, my lord." 

"Beer! Devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced 
loon ! Didn't I tell thee to bring sack ? " 

" Sorry, sir." 

"Bah I Let me taste the pgison. (Drinks it at a 


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gulp and points tragically at the door.) Gto to! Get 
thee to a nxinnery I '' 

"Yes, sir.'' 

There was one man called Snayle, a cockney, with a 
wonderful falsetto voice. In our lunch-hour he would 
give extremely funny imitations of an Italian prima 
donna, with all the gestures and manners and tricks of 
the voice. Although for a long time I was not allowed 
to do anything but size canvases and mix buckets of 
colour, I foimd this life most interesting. Duncan 
Brice initiated me into a lot of the mysteries of the 
underside of life in the West End of London. It was 
a subject upon which he was no mean authority. He 
was an extremely clever draughtsman. If Mr. Becher 
left the studio for a few minutes, he would nip across 
the room and make a rough charcoal sketch of a nude 
woman right in the middle of a forest glade that the chief 
was working on. There would be a ringed sentence 
coming from her mouth : " Hullo, Unde ! What are 
you doing to-night ? '' When Mr. Becher returned the 
whcde studio would watch him furtively. He would ob- 
serve the drawing critically, with his head on one side. 
Then he would suddenly bawl out : 

" Oh, my lights, and liver, and lungs ! Oh, my lungs, 
and liver, and lights ! '' 

Then he would pick up a straight-edge, and chase 
Duncan all over the room. Punishment having been 
inflicted, he would return, panting, and call out : 

"Boy! . . . Wassail!" 

It was surely the most disorderly and free-and-easy 
place of business that ever existed. Nevertheless, be- 
neath it all, excellent work was accomplished. Julius 
Becher was considered one of the best scene-painters, 
with an absolute genius 'for the mechanical part He 
took a lot of trouble with me, and at the end of six 
months he said that I could " tell mv mamma that I had 


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been a good boy, and that he proposed to pay me fifteen 
shillings a week." 

This was precisely the salary that I had enjoyed dur- 
ing my brief period as a clerk in the wall-paper firm. 
But what a difference ! As Mary said — that led no- 
where. But here I might one day become a force in the 
theatrical world. Like Mr. Becher I might hobnob with 
actor-managers and become a member of the Garrick 
Club. I might revolutionise stage-production. I was 
in a living movement. 

Mary would never explain to me why she thought 
Laura had engaged herself to the wrong man. She was 
mysterious and obstinate about it, and I convinced my- 
self that she was quite wrong. We did not see much of 
Laura for some time. She got an important engage- 
ment at the Gewandhaus at Leipsig, and went on a re- 
cital tour in Germany. When she returned she gave a 
recital at the St. James's Hall. I had not heard her 
play for a long time, and I was amazed at her improve- 
ment. She had often been accused by the critics of a 
certain restlessness and uncertainty of rhythm, but on 
this occasion she appeared to be a complete master of 
her moods. Edgar had given her a present of a Guar- 
nerius, but this alone could not account for the increased 
richness of tone, the fine balance and breadth. I sat 
there and watched her frowning over the bow. She was 
dressed in black velvet, with a long chain of cornelians 
hanging to her waist. I felt proud, and a little jealous, 
and watchful, and mystified. Laura seemed far away 
from me, a goddess on Parnassus, conununing with 
spirits too removed for me % understand. Msenads were 
dancing in star-like glades, the jagged profile of bare 
rocks rose up against the night sky, a woman was weep- 


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ing • . . you could not know her story. The night was 
too bewilderingly beautiful. Tears and rapture, pity 
and passion, were they not all akin in these dark folds 
of colour and movement ? 

By the door Edgar Beyfus was standing. His eyes 
did not leave her face. Yes, of course, Mary was quite 
wrong. A good chap, Edgar. I could feel it in Laura's 
playing. She had found the golden key. She was no 
longer a girl pushing towards success. She was an 
artist communing. You cannot accomplish anything 
until you love. For love implies suffering. You can- 
not be big until you love and suffer — horribly. 

In the artists' room afterwards I was ihe uninten- 
tional witness of a little incident which is always vividly 
impressed on my mind. There was a small room lead- 
ing out of a larger. I hurried into the larger ro<»n to 
look for Laura. As I could not see her, I peeped into 
the smaller, just in time to see Laura kiss her fiance. 
There were no half-measures about Laura. She seemed 
to be crying; then, as he entered the room ahead of me, 
she give a little croon and, flinging her arms round 
him, she pressed her lips to his, and held him. It was 
a volcanic kiss, overwhelming. 

We all went to supper at Fagani's. There was the 
usual gay reaction from the nervous strain of recital- 
giving. Edgar ordered champagne. I have never 
known Laura in such a merry mood. We all laughed 
and chatted inconsequentially. 

" Did I play well ? Did you like my frock ? Who 
was" there ? Weren't they a ripping audience ? " 

Laura darted at each of us. Mary and I both said 
we had never heard her play so welL Edgar said he 
never thought that even a Guamerius could soiSKd so 
glorious. Mary said her frock looked perfect. Laura 
ate a large quantity of macaroni and drank a consider- 
able amoimt of champagne. Then she began again to 


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talk excitedly of her career. She was going back to 
Germany in the spring; and there was a scheme afoot 
for visiting Bussia. 

Edgar smiled, and said, '^What other plans have 

She looked at him, and laughed. 

" Oh, you ! *' she said. " I know what you want. 
. . . You'll have to wait your chance." 

And she crowned him with a sprig of parsley. 

" Mary," I said, when we got home, " I'm annoyed 
with you. Why do you still persist in believing Aat 
Edgar is the wrong man ? I think he's a ripping chap. 
I'm perfectly convinced that they are desperately in 
lov& I happened to see something. He wouldn't have 
given her that Guamerius unless " 

Mary stifled a yawn, and shook her head. 

" Damn it 1 " I said. " Do you still insist that 
Edgar's a mistake? " 

" I'm more sure of it than ever," she answered, and 
b^an to undress. 

Women . • • But there! . • « 


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SUNDAY night in "the dissecting-room." Giles 
called it the dissecting-room, because he said that 
Mary and her girl friends used to meet there and 
dissect each other^s characters. It had probably been 
designed as a billiard-room. It was a lofty, bungalow 
kind of place, built on to Mxs. Copley's house; rather 
scratchily furnished with wicker chairs and ottomans, 
and an upright piano. It had always been consecrated 
to Giles and Mary, and their friends. It had a door 
leading on to the garden. The walls were brown wains- 
coting with a dark green canvas stretched above. I 
never liked this room. To-night, as I lay back on the 
ottoman, smoking, it filled me with an unaccountable 
sense of melancholy, and something worse . . • gusto 
picaresco. It was a good scene, though — a painter's 
effect. The faces clear-cut beneath the lamps, the room 
above lost in mystery, trails of blue tobacco-smoke 
drifting hither and thither. Why was I in such a 
silly mood? What was this dead-weight, like a pre- 
monition of evil? At the other end of the ottoman 
were Mary and a girl called Agnes Winter, giggling 
and listening to Radio, who was leaning forward and 
talking earnestly. In the centre of the room, close 
under the lamp, sat Mrs. Copley, stitching away at a 
piece of maroon-coloured embroidery. Her gentle face 



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appeared concentrated on her work. She was not lis- 
tening to Eadic. In the further comer Giles and 
Angus sat facing each other over a chess-board, the 
board being supported by some mysterious piece of 
furniture covered with a blue-and-red check cloth. 

I sat watching Radio, and only partially listening to 
him,. He was vehement, as usual, and talking about 
"the good European." His small black tousled head 
kept thrusting forward like a ram, and he held one 
finger up and then flopped it down heavily on his leg 
and fumbled about with his knees. His queer trans- 
parent eyes flashed hither and thither, and his mouth 
broke into supercilious sneers. " Oh, yes, I believe 
you. . . . Men go into politics sincere, and in five min- 
utes they are drinking tea with duchesses." — Mary 
thought this was very funny. — " An artist can be sin- 
cere, yes. Indeed, he is the only one, for he is alone. 
One man alone can be sincere. Two together can be 
sincere. Three go to pieces, and more than that, eat 
each other up. . . . When a man loses his will-to- 
express-regardless-of-all-consequences he loses every- 
thing. He becomes a debtor. What is it the politician 
says? 'I owe something to my party. I owe some- 
thing to my constituents.' You see, he is already bar- 
gaining with his conscience. He is already compro- 
mising. Soon he becomes a beggar, yes, then a slave." 

" Toll me, Radio, what do you mean by two people 
being sincere ? " 

" A man and a woman, yes . . . occasionally, when 
they love or when they . . . passion is always sincere. 
The good European destroys sincerity with his Royal 
Academy pictures and his temples of pity. He is like 
a dog running round in circles, trying to bite his own 

"What should he do, then? Run after other dogB 
and bite their tails ? " 


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"Yes . . . preferably. If he values his tyi)e, he 
must think of himself" 

How tiring Radio could be at times with his stale 
Nietzsche! And yet, of course, there was something 
in it. Perhaps we worried too much about each other. 
. . . What does Mrs. Copley look up like that for, as 
though she were listening? A dog barked somewhere 
at the front of the house. The electric bell rang. An- 
other visitor. Well, why should I be agitated? All 
sorts of people drop into the Copleys' on a Sunday 

A few moments drift by, during which one of the 
chess-players says, " Dash it 1 I didn't see that," and 
then comes the click of the dissecting-room door. 

The door opens, and two girls with drawn, white faces 
enter the room. One is Daisy Weir and the other 
Eleanor Bowater. Curiously enough, they both glance 
at me first. I seem to expect this, and I jump up and 
go to them. Everyone is conscious of the sudden in- 
trusion, like the rustle of the skirts of a tragedy. We 
* seem to converge into a group under the lamp, every- 
one except the chess-players, who have looked up, but 
have not stirred. In spite of my anxiety I am pecul- 
iarly conscious of every little thing in the room. 

Eleanor reaches me first, and puts her hand on my 

" It's all right . . . something awfully queer. Not 
really serious. . . ." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" Laura. She burnt her violin this afternoon, at the 
Queen's Hall, during the concert." 

"Burnt her violin 1" 

"I'm afraid it's awfully queer. But don't worry, 
old boy." 

" Sit down, both of you." 

It was Mary's hand which pulled me down on to the 


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ottoman. Giles oomes striding across the room, ex- 

" Good God ! Not the Guamerius ! " 

The two girls looked from one to another; then 
Eleanor said: 

" Yon know it was the Harmonic Society concert 
this afternoon. Lanra was playing the Vieuxtemps 
concerta Sir Arthur Jeeves was conducting. She 
looked quite all right when she came on. She played 
gloriously. The whole thing went perfectly till she 
came to the slow movement. I don't know how it was, 
but both Daisy and I seemed to detect some change in 
her. She seemed nervous, abstracted. Once she nearly 
foi^ot to come in at the right moment. But she got 
through all right. At the end of the movement she 
peered into the audience with a queer look, and put her 
hand to her head. Sir Arthur began to tap with his 
baton, preparatory to the last movement, when she sud- 
denly turned and walked deliberately off the platform. 

"He looked rather surprised. Everyone imagined 
that something had gone wrong with her fiddle, although 
she certainly did not break a string. Sir Arthur waited, 
and spoke a few words to the leader. People began to 
whisper. The minutes went by. At last he walked 
off. He was absent nearly ten minutes. Daisy and I 
began to get into an awful state. At length he returned. 
He announced quite calmly that, owing to a sudden in- 
disposition, Miss Purbeck would not be able to continue 
the concerto. The orchestra would play the next item. 
Of course Daisy and I rushed out and went to the back. 
We found her kneeling on the floor in the artists' room, 
staring at the fire. Mr. Loeb, the agent, was walking 
up and down the room, ejaculating: ^My God! My 
God ! ' * What is it ? ' I said. He pointed towards 
the fireplace. On th^ fender were the relics of a burnt 
fiddla There was nothing left but a piece of the 


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charred neck and the scroll with some gut still dangling. 
* Laura/ I said, ^ what has happened ? ' and I tried to 
kiss her. She thrust us both away. All she said was, 
^ I had to do it.' Mr. Loeb waved his arms in despair. 
' She has destroyed it,' he said, ^ of her own free will.' 
^ No, no,' said Daisy ; ' it must have been an accident. 
It was an accident, wasn't it, Laura ? ' She only shook 
her head, and Mr. Loeb continued, ^ She has destroyed 
the Ouamerius. She has destroyed her career.' " 


When I heard Eleanor say this I gave a cry. 

" Where is she? " I said. " I must go to her." 

" There isn't another train up to town to-night," she 
answered. "And we don't know where she is. But 
I'm sure she's all right, Tom. She wasn't crying; 
nothing like that. She looked flushed, excited — 
peculiar, not really distressed. I think she must have 
been working too hard — a sudden nervous breakdown." 

Daisy took up the narrative. 

" There was an awful confusion, of course. Other 
people came round. Septimus Coyne was there. You 
know he is a tremendous admirer of Laura's." 

" But where was Edgar ? " I asked. 

"I saw him once at the back of the hall. But he 
never came round when all this happened." 

" He never came round 1 " 

"Na As a matter of fact, Eleanor and I went 
round to try and find him. When we got back Laura 
had gone. The commissionaire said she had driven 
away alone in a cab. We thought she might be com- 
ing down here. We left Septimus still poking about. 
He will be down by the last train." 

She stopped, and we all. looked at each other. The 
matter seemed inexplicable. There was nothing to be 


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said. We all wanted to know, and to question, and we 
did not know where to begin. Mrs. Copley's calm 
voice broke in: 

" Was the instrument insured, darling? '^ 

The comparative unimportance of this query cast a 
spell of relief. Giles, vigorously massaging his temples, 

" Even if it were, mum, no company would pay up 
for a thing wilfully destroyed/' 

" What could have been the idea ? " 

" Laura said nothing more ? You could get nothing 
more out of her ? " 

" No. Of course we meant to when we got back, but 
she'd gone. A lot of people began to collect, hall- 
managers and people. The concert wasn't over. The 
commissionaire said she went off in a great hurry. 
She had a violin-case with her." 

" She had a violin-case with her 1 That's rum," said 

The room began to feel oppressive. I groped my 
way towards the door. 

" Where are you going, dear ? " said Mary. 

" I must get up to London somehow. I must find 
her. I will walk up." 

"My dear boy," said Eleanor; "it's twenty-two 
miles, and the night is dark and wet. You wouldn't 
know where to look when you got there. She may be 
down by the last train." 

Mary pulled me back into the room. 

" I'm sure it's all right," she said. I was conscious 
of them all looking at me. I felt that I ought to hold 
the master-key to this mystery — that I was in some 
peculiar way responsible. I felt ashamed, confused, 
distraught. I wdked over to the chess-board, and pre- 
tended to observe the position of the game. The two 
players returned and resumed their seats. We all three 


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stared at the ridiculous little men with unseeing eyes. 
The girls were whispering in the opposite comer. Mrs. 
Copley walked out of the room. Angus offered me a 
cigarette and I lighted it without thanking him. I 
heard Badic launching forth into a new tirade. I 
caught the phrase : '^ To be any good at all, art must 
be unbridled/' 

The two boys continued their game in silence. Then 
Giles, who had the game well in hand, made a pre- 
posterous mistake. He flushed angrily and exclaimed : 

^' Oh, what's the good ? " Then he turned to me and 

" I don't see why it should ruin her career — just a 
sudden indisposition." 

I did not answer him, and he called out: 

"Eleanor, who was there ? Was the hall full ? " 

Eleanor came over, and spoke quietly. 

" There were no critics. Sunday, you know. But 
the hall was packed. There would almost sure to be 
some newspaper people. In fact, Daisy says she saw 
old Threlf all of the Daily Quest — taking a 'busman's 
holiday, probably. Sir Artiiur Jeeves seemed to take 
it quite calmly. Of course I don't know what tran- 
spired between him and Laura." 

" Septimus ought to be here by now.*' 

Mrs. Copley came into the room, followed by a maid 
with a tea-tray. While she was putting it down, the 
bell went. Mary shot from the room like an arrow 
from a bow. The rest of us stood watching the door. 
The maid was fussing with the tray and whispering to 
Mrs. Copley, who replied, as though it was a matter 
of great importance: 

" Yes, some of the Qaribaldi biscuits, Ma^a" 

There was an interminable wait ; then Coyne entered 
the room in his overcoat, followed by Mary. No 
Laura. Coyne looked tired and oily, as though he had 


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been greasing his hair and then wiping his hands on 
his pale face. A slight expression of importance crept 
over his countenance as he looked round at us^ like that 
of a successful performer about to play his own c(»n- 


It took a long time to get rid of the maid, and then 
they made him take off his overcoat. 

" It's awfully queer," was all he would say for a 
long time. 

" Did you see her again ? '' 

" No. I never saw her at all, except on the platform. 
I saw Beyfus at the back and I saw him go out of the 
hall when Laura went off after the slow movement.'* 

" What could you tell from his face ? " « 


"Didn't he look scared?" 

"I didn't notice anything special. He was just 
standing there looking calm, and he walked out." 

"Did you find out whether he went round to the 
artists' room? " 

" Yes. He didn't go there." 

" What are your ideas ? Why do you think she did 

" Well, it looks to me as though there had been some 
sort of nmipus. You know what Laura is. He must 
have done something. • . . She wanted to show that 
she had finished with him. It was he who had given 
her the Quarnerius. They say he paid seven hundred 
and fifty for it. It was her way of showing him that 
she'd done with him." 

" But why, in God's name, do it in the middle of a 
concert? It's cutting off her nose to spite her face." 

"You know what Laura is. She's impulsive. She 
saw him there in the hall, watching her. It was a 


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sudden mood. She couldn't stand it any longer. 
Something to do with the mood of the music, probably, 
alsa Laura's an artist. She wouldn't think about the 

Radio suddenly clapped his hands and exclaimed, 
"Braval brava! Why should she? . . . Unbridled, 
eh? What did I say? To hell with the publicans! " 

" Publicans " was unfortunate, but Eadic meant well. 
Then Mary interjected : 

"But you say he went out of the hall when Laura 
walked off. In that case he wouldn't know that she had 
burnt the fiddle." 

" I saw him go out, but I don't know where he went 
to. He may have come back again through another 
door, or have gone to another part of the hall, or have 
been watching outside. I did not leave the hall till 
Jeeves had made the announcement. I darted about 
outside to try and find Beyfus. When I went round 
to the back Laura had gone. The commissionaire told 
me that a cab had been waiting for her for half an hour, 
and that she took away quite a lot of things, including a 
violin-case, a trunk, and the charred remnants of the 

" That's queer," remarked Giles. " That looks more 
like premeditation than impulse." 

The maid re-entered with the Garibaldi biscuits, and 
we sat solemnly, considering the problem. "The only 
thing that's quite clear," I thought, " is that as a 
prophet I was right and Mary was wrong, but when it 
came to intuition she was right and I was wrong. 
Edgar Beyfus must be the wrong man. It's all to do 
with hiuL Good God, poor Laura 1 I hope she won't 
do anything mad " 

" Of course," continued Septimus, " after the show 
I hung about and tried to pick up what I could, but I 
couldn't get hold of anything very useful. Everyone 


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was asking questions and no one was answering them. 
There were some newspaper people there, I don^t mind 
telling you. Jeeves was surrounded, but not very com- 
municative. He had had a great success with the 
Dvorak at the end, and I think he'd forgotten about 
Laura. I heard him say, * Oh, yes, very unfortunate, 
very regrettable. I can tell you nothing mora' And 
Loeb was tearing his hair. * How I have worked for 
that girl ! ' he was saying. ^ For ten years I have 
worked and slaved, and she throws it all away in five 
minutes.' As a matter of fact, it was he who was the 
fool. He completely lost his head.^ If he had kept 
quiet the thing need never have come out. Jeeves told 
nothing except the indisposition yarn, but Loeb was 
blurting out the whole story. Of course he hates Bey- 
fus. Laura has been with Loeb all these years, and 
now she goes and gets engaged to Beyfus, which means 
that in future Beyfus will be her agent, and husband, 
and everything else." 

" Do you think that possibly " began Daisy, with 

distended eyes. Then she stopped and remarked sen- 
tentiously, " Of course, there are always wheels within 

Giles turned to Angus and said : 

" Colum, you've been in the musical profession years 
— what do you know of Loeb? . . . and what is 
thought of Beyfus? — in the profession, I mean, of 
course, as an impresario ? " 

Angus thrust forward and, speaking in his lazy voice, 
he said: 

" Oh, I don't know. Loeb is an old Jew. I've al- 
ways heard that he's pretty straight — a sound man, 
not very pushing." 

"Yes. And Beyfus?" 

Angus grinned round at the company apolc^etically, 
and shru^ed his shoulders. 


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^^Oh, I don't know. It's just what one hears. I 
have heard that Beyfus is just the opposite." 

I turned to him sharply, and said: 

"You mean to say that you've heard that Edgar 
Beyfus is young, not straight, not sound, but very 
pushing ? " 

Angus wriggled uncomfortably, and murmured : 

" Oh, it's just what one hears. There may be noth- 
ing in it." 


Then a dramatic turn was given to events. The 
maid again entered the room, and said: 

"Someone wishes to speak to Mr. Purbeck on the 
telephone, madam." 

I dashed out into the hall, and Mary followed me. 
I snatched up the receiver and cried " Hullo ! " 
There was no sound but the hum of the wires. I kept 
on repeating " Hullo ! Hullo 1 " At length a voice 

"Is that you, Tom?" 

It was Laura's voice. 

" Yes, yes. Is that you, Laura ? " 

"Don't be excited, old boy. I just wanted to tell 
you, you are not to worry about anything you hear about 
to-night. I am quite all right." 

" But, Laura, Laura " 

"Hush! It's been all very difficult. Don't be- 
lieve anything you hear or read. I'll write to you 
in a day or two. Qood night, dear, and my love to 
you all." 

" But, Laura, why did you . . . Laura, Laura ! are 
you there ? Hell I Laura ! Laura ! " There was no 
sound but the low drone of the wires. 

Mary caught my arm and kissed me. 

Digitized by VjOOQ IC 


As we went back into the dissecting-room, Oiles was 

" The more I hear about it, the more convinced I am 
that Laura has been used as a pawn in some game be- 
tween Loeb and Beyfus. Loeb may have been acting. 
Of course, if she is going to Beyfus he won't care if 
her career is ruined. On the other hand . • , Hullo I 
any newsr? " 

'^ Laura telephoned to say she's all right. That's 
all. Nothing else." 

" Where did she telephone from ? " 

" I don't know. She rang ofE suddenly, or we were 
cut off. Perhaps she'll ring up again." 

Badic was shaking his finger at Eleanor. 

"Everyone is your enemy . . . don't forget that. 
You only reach perfection through a process of de- 
struction. Steel through the furnace, eh? Creation 
through suffering. . . . What do these chess-players 
say? ' Oh, dash it! I didn't see that! ' ... To be 
a good chessrplayer, or a big artist, you must see more 
than the other fellow, eh ? " 

Giles threw another log on to the fire, and muttered : 

" There's nothing more we can do." 

I suddenly thought of father. Probably at that mo- 
ment he was serving drinks across the bar at " The 
Duchess of Pless," talking to Mr. Timble, or upholding 
the dignity of his house. " Silence, gentlemen ! " 
Father — he would never be able to understand it, 
whatever the solution. To-morrow he would probably 
read about it in the newspapers : " Sensational Inci- 
dent at the Queen's Hall. Violinist Destroys her Vior 
lin." An immoral act. A flagrantly inmioral act 
Whether she wanted the violin or not, she destroyed a 


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beautiful thing that could not be replaced. She might 
have given it away, or given it back to him. But 
that, of course, would not be like Laura. She would 
act abruptly, and think afterwards. Her voice had 
sounded unruffled, though, as though she was not un- 
happy. It was kind of her to ring up. We were " not 
to worry." That meant that she was not going to — 
do anything rash. I had been frightened of this. I 
always felt that Laura might do anything. Our mother 
was Spanish. ... I wish I had known more about 
our mother. Doubtless in her life she had — done 
precipitate things, and thought afterwards. I began 
dreaming of that romantic country, with its dark pas- 
sions and slumbering tragedies. 

Giles got out a pack of cards and began to play 
patience feverishly. We were all silent, when suddenly 
Radic came out with a most amazing suggestion. Rock- 
ing on his haunches on the ottoman, he said : 

" You say. Miss Weir, that there was nothing left 
of the violin but the charred scroll, eh ? " 

" Yes, the scroll and a piece of the neck, with some 
strings dangling. Just a wreck." 

''How do you know, then, that it was the Ouar- 
nerius? '* 

We sat there contemplating this remarkable insinua- 
tion. I think we all took it in different ways. 

Then I turned to him and. said : 

"What on earth do you mean, Radic? Do you 
think Laura would lie about it ? " 

" I haven't heard yet that Laura said that it was the 
Guamerius. All she said was ^ she had to do it' " 

" But, surely, you ^" 

" Listen, old boy. I would not believe Laura capable 
of any deception, no. But there are too many ^leva- 
Hers d'industrie in this. All these professions where 
success is the first consideration . . ." 


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" But what possible good can it do, if it ruins her 
career ? " 

" It may ruin her career, or it may make her career. 
Se non e vero, e hen trovato. It all depends on how 
the situation is — what you call it? — handled. One 
may try to ruin and the other to make. Two nice men, 

" But, in that case, Laura would have been a party to 
it. I refuse to believe ^^ 

My mind went whirling round and round. I seemed 
to hear Kadic talking a long way off above the crackling 
of the logs : 

" There is always the pull that way. A little more 
and one is over the edge before one knows it. There is 
a first cause, and then the story is complicated by things 
outside. The chevalier dHndustrie . . . capable of 
anything. . . . Oh, yes, believe me ... I know him 
— this good European ^' 


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ONLY two of the momiiig papers had any men- 
tion of the incident, but the afternoon papers 
came out with flaming headlines and with 
Laura's portrait The popular headline was, "Rc^- 
markable Incident at the Queen's Hall. Well-known 
Lady Violinist Destroys a Thousand-guinea Violin." 
Some hinted that Miss Laura Purbeck had had an acci- 
dent, others that she had had a sudden mental aberra- 
tion, due to a nervous breakdown. They all agreed 
that the matter was a mystery, and had not yet been 
cleared up. It was disclosed that she had left on the 
midnight train for Manchester, where she was to play 
on Tuesday afternoon. Sir Arthur Jeeves was reputed 
to have said that '^he was not quite clear what had 
happened. Miss Purbeck seemed completely unstrung 
when he entered the artists' room. He only had a few 
words with her. From her manner he felt convinced 
she would not be able to continue, although she could 
easily have obtained another violin. Indeed, she had 
another one with her. He could not keep the public 
waiting. When the concert was over, she had gone." 
On Tuesday nearly every paper in England seemed 
to have Laura's portrait, with a long article about her, 
and an interview quoted from the representative of a 
news-agency who had run her to earth in a Manchester 
hotel. It was headed, "Miss Purbeck's Remarkable 
Story," and it ran somewhat as follows : 

^' 122 - 


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" Our representative, who found Miss Pnrbeck con- 
siderably recovered from the nervous strain of her ex- 
perience at the Queen's Hall, was told a strange and 
romantic story. She appeared quite willing, indeed 
anxious, to relieve herself of an oppressive burden and 
to offer explanations and apologies for the unfortunate 
contretemps of Sunday evening. We will quote her 
own words : ' The Gnamerius was given me by my 
ficmce, Mr. Edgar Beyfus, on the 27th of last month. 
It was, as yon know, a beautiful instrument and quite 
historic I first played on it in public on the 10th of 
this month, at Bath, and there was no untoward inci- 
dent. On the following night, however, I was playing 
at Bristol. After the concert several people came round 
to see me — it is quite customary — and one gentle- 
man sent in his card, on which was inscribed Senor 
Julio Gonzales, ThiiiJking he was probably a musician 
of some sort, I gave permission for him to come in. 
He was a tall, dark, sallow-looking man, and he in- 
formed me that he was a Cuban. I don't know how 
it was, but he frightened me. I didn't like his eyes. 
They were sinister and penetrating. After paying the 
usual compliments about my playing, he picked up my 
violin. " This is a beautiful instrument," he said, and 
he looked at me closely. I replied that of course I 
knew it was, and I began to wonder what he was after. 
Drawing me a little on one side, he suddenly whispered, 
" Miss Purbeck, I do not wish to disturb you, but there 
is a curse on this violin ! " I asked him what he meant, 
and he answered, " Thirty years ago this violin be- 
longed to certain members of my family. To all of 
them who played it there came tragedy." I am not a 
superstitious person, and I was inclined to laugh at this 
portentous statement, but the man somehow gripped me. 
I could not help feeling that he was in earnest. In a 
few whispered statements he told me three appalling 


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tragedies that had happened to different members of 
the Gonzales family during the time they owned the 
violin. It was horrible. Other people came up and 
interrupted us, but as he went he muttered, " I warn 
you. I warn you. I warn you." It all seemed very 
foolish, and I tried to dismiss it from my mind, but a 
few days later, being in London, I happened to men- 
tion the matter to my fiance. As you know, nearly all 
these old violins have a pedigree, and Mr. Beyfus 
laughed and said he would look it up. Sure enough, 
we found that the Guamerius had been in the possession 
of the Gonzales family thirty years ago, and they had 
held it for twelve years — just as he had said. Even 
then we should have been disposed to laugh the matter 
over, only that another imeomf ortable incident recurred 
to our minds. We remembered that the Gonzales sold 
it to an American gentleman in London named Mr. 
Bonzard Smith, a very wealthy man who bought it for 
his daughter in Boston. He expected the girl over in 
the, spring. A few weeks later ^he was killed in a 
sleigh accident. Of the last owners from whom Mr. 
Beyfus bought it we knew nothing, but naturally the 
whole thing got on my nerves a little. I was too busy, 
however, to worry seriously. I determined that I must 
dismiss it from my mind if I was to play well. A week 
later I was plfaying the Vieuxtemps concerto at Glasgow 
with the municipal orchestra. I had practically for- 
gotten all about my Cuban friend. I had played 
through two movements when, just as I was commen- 
cing the third, I caught sight of him at the back of the 
hall. He was grinning at me malevolently. I do not 
know how I got through that movement. I nearly 
fainted. But I did manage to struggle through. I'm 
not surprised, by the way, that the Glasgow Herald 
slated it I I was trembling like a leaf. When the con- 
cert was over I expected him to come round, but he did 


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not appear. It seemed worse that he did not appear 
than if he had appeared. Was he following me about ? 
And why? 

" ' Mj next engagement was at Nottingham, a few 
days later. I was becoming quite unstrung by the 
affair. I telegraphed to Mr. Beyfus and he came at 
once. I explained it to him, and he posted several men 
about the hall. If Gonzales had appeared they were 
going to warn him. But he did not appear. Neither 
did he appear at my recital at Bedford. I was begin- 
ning to think that it was pure coincidence. My next 
engagement was the Harmonic Concert at the Queen^s 
Hall. I was playing the same concerto that I had 
played in Glasgow. For a time the importance of the 
occasion, the sympathetic attention of the audience, 
above all the music itself, so absorbed me that I lost all 
association of idea with the Glasgow incident. But 
suddenly, during the slow movement, the recollection of 
it occurred to me. I had to struggle to keep my mind 
on the theme* When the movement was finished I al- 
most involuntarily glanced at that part of the hall where 
Gonzales had been sitting at Glasgow. To my horror 
I suddenly looked right into his eyes. He was sitting 
about ten rows back, and he was grinning I I felt 
paralysed with fear. I gripped my violin tight, as 
though I expected someone to snatch it away. I heard 
Sir Arthur Jeeves tapping with his baton preparatory 
to the opening of the third movement. And then I 
realised that I could not go on. I suppose I lost my 
head. I ought to have said a word to Sir Arthur, but 
instead of that I walked straight off the platform. I 
raced down to the artists' room. A large fire was 
burning in the grate, a clear red fire. My hands seemed 
frozen and numb. Instinctively I thrust them forward 
over the fire, hardly realising that I was still holding the 
violin. And then the awful thing happened. The 


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violin slipped from my grasp and dropped right upon 
the red part of the fire. I gave a cry. If my nerves 
had not immediately given way I had plenty of time 
to snatch the instrument away before it was damaged 
beyond repair. But when I saw the flames lick round 
the body of my beautiful fi'ddle I was simply hypnotised 
by the tragedy. I heard the gut snap and I saw the 
body of it blazing away. I believe I laughed and cried 
at the same time. I suppose I was quite hystericaL 
In one way I experienced a curious sense of relief, as 
though the spell which the stranger had put over me 
had been broken. On the other hand^ I seemed to see 
all my hopes and ambitions vanishing into smoke. 
How could I possibly account for it? I don't know 
how long I knelt there, watching my fiddle bum, before 
Sir Arthur came into the room. " What is the matter? 
What is the matter. Miss Purbeck ? " he said. I really 
can't remember what I answered. I believe I said, 
"Yes, yes, I'm coming," and I snatched the charred 
remnant from the fire as though I proposed to continue 
playing on it. Sir Arthur was very kind. I suppose 
I cried then. He said I was ill. I must lie down. 
In any case, he could not keep the public waiting any 
longer. He went away. I did not feel that I could 
face the ordeal of a kind of public inquisition, so directly 
he had gone back to the platform I got the commission- 
aire to get me a cab and I drove away to my flat, and 
then caught the midnight train to Manchester. I 
brought my old fiddle with me. I am only hoping 
that the public will understand and forgive me. I 
am now wondering, is this Cuban going to haunt my 
life, or now that the fiddle is destroyed, will he vanish 

At Laura's recital at Manchester on Tuesday after- 
noon there was not a vacant seat. 


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The following night I visited my father at "The 
Duchess of Pless." To my surprise, all the bars were 
crowded. Everyone seemed to be reading or examin- 
ing the evening newspapers. There was the loud hum 
of conversation. My father, looking flushed and ex- 
cited, was hurrying hither and thither. When he 
caught sight of me, he exclaimed: 

"Hullo, Tom! What's all this about Laura?'' 

" I know nothing except what I've read," I answered. 

" It'fl a nice thing, isn't it ? I must say, it's a nice 
thing " — reaching down a bottle. " Why couldn't she 
tell us about this scoundrel ? I'd have done something. 
I'd have settled him — this Cuban assassin ! " He 
served two gentlemen with rum, and I heard him re- 
peating, " Cuban assassin ! " Trade was very brisk. 
I overheard the constant repetition, "Of course it is 
— old Purbeck's daughter ! " Discussions were in force 
about fate, and destiny, and things that had been ac- 
cursed. Old Timble was holding forth on the romance 
of the Hope diamond. Father appeared agitated, but I 
could not help thinking that he was rather pleased with 
the publicity. And once he whispered to me, " Well, 
I'm glad the damn thing was burnt." 

A keen-faced man, named Hatchett, who ran a small 
easy-hire furnishing business in the High Street, leant 
across the bar and said: 

" If you ask me, Mr. Purbeck, sir, my opinion is 
that the motive was robbery. He wanted to frighten 
the girl, then he was either going to stea^ the violin or 
oflfer her a nominal sum for it." 

My father shrugged his shoulders. It might be so. 
He had been to Cuba — a treacherous race — mostly 
assassins. He did not like to forego the idea that the 
violin really was cursed. It satisfied his superstitious 


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beliefs. Things were cursed. There was no getting 
away from it. There were a lot of mysteries we didn't 
understand. He had once sat down thirteen to table. 
During the following year one of the party had died 
from heart disease. There you were ! 

During a slight lull later on, my father beckoned me 
into the little room at the back. 

" What do you think of this Edgar Beyfus ? " he said. 

'' I know nothing against him/' I answered. 

" Ah ! but — do you know anything for him? " 

" He seems all right They say he's a clever, decent 
sort of chap. One of the coming men in the concert 


^* I think you can rely on him looking after her all 

Then my father did a surprising thing. He offered 
me a glass of port, and had one himself. ^' He wrote 
to me and asked my consent, you know," he explained, 
holding the port up to the light ^^ By the same poet 
Laura wrote. You know what Laura is. A lot of — 
well, gush. Then she put it in such a way that it meant 
that whether I gave my consent or not, it wouldn't make 
any difference." 

He laughed, and sipped the port like a connoisseur. 

" I've never seen the fellow. He was to call on me^ 
but he's never been." 

^^ Ah ! he ought to have been. I think you will like 
him. This is good port, dad." 

^^ Yes, it's the real thing, isn't it } Have some more, 
if you like."t 

" Thanks very much." 

Two glasses of port went to my head. I said : 

^^ This is going to be a big thing for Laura, dad. I 
thought it might ruin her career. Instead of that, I 
believe it will make her. Everybody in England is 


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talking about her. She is destined to be great At 
Manchester yesterday they sold out. I believe she'll 
be all the rage." 

My father's eyes glowed quietly. Was I under an 
illusion when I fancied that he, too, had been drinking 
— a little more than customary? He was seldom so 
chatty and familiar with me. The din from the bars 
seemed to increase. I can't quite remember what I 
said, but I know I became a little sentimental. 
Father's brilliant daughter, my brilliant sister — and I 
had no jealousy of her. I was rather proud, that was 
all. It seemed so queer when I thought of the days 
when she and I used to play in the yard at the bade 
I was always the waverer, but Laura never had any mis- 
givings. Since she was a kid, she meant to be great. 
Like many great people, she was perhaps a little un- 
scrupulous. One couldn't help that. It was just — 
Laura. If she was abrupt and inconsiderate at times 
one had to forgive her. Fundamentally she wasn't only 
an ambitious woman. She paid for her mistakes in her 
conscience. She was really far kinder and more sym- 
pathetic than I. She was ambitious, of course. • . • 

Father listened, and nodded, and his eyes roamed. 
He tapped the bowl of his pipe against the mantelshelf. 

" It's all right up to a point," he ejaculated once. A 
loud high giggle came from the saloon bar, and then a 
man's voice bawling out something very loud. He 
pushed by me, and I heard the door snap to. Above 
the cries in the bar I suddenly heard that boom of 
authority : 

" Silence, gentlemen I " 


Laura's wedding^ which took place a month later, was 
a very different affair from mine. It was done in style 


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at a fashionable church, with a reception at a smart 
West End hotel. There were crowds of guests. Marj 
and I hardly knew anyone. Father wandered about the 
room with a red face, looking as though he wanted to 
fight someone. Uncle Stephen appeared in a brand- 
new, badly-fitting tail-coat. He drank too much cham- 
pagne, and had to be snubbed by Laura for over- 
familiarity. This was not " Baionnette's day." Well- 
known artists and newspaper people were in evidence, 
for Laura was becoming famous. The incident of the 
Cuban assassin had given a tremendous fillip to her 
popularity. Everywhere where she had played during 
the month the halls had been crowded. Many people 
went out of a morbid curiosity to see whether the villain 
would be there, or whether there would be a scene. 
At Hull a sallow little man with a black moustache was 
suddenly credited with being the man. A crowd waited 
for him afterwards and assaulted him. He was nearly 
thrown into the river, and only escaped through the 
intervention of the police. He turned out to be a little 
Austrian barber, with a passion for Bach, who had 
never heard of the Cuban assassin and was completely 
bewildered by his sudden unpopularity. He thought 
the world had gone crazy. 

This incident also attracted considerable notice in 
the Press, and the little barber was surprised to find 
his photograph in the newspapers, above an article be- 
ginning : " There was very nearly a tragic sequel to the 
remarkable experience of Miss Laura Purbeck, the well- 
known violinist," etc. 

Laura herself was more elusive than ever. It was 
impossible to get hold of her and cross-examine her 
about the details. She was always " simply frantically 
busy " or " rushed off her feet." On the only occasions 
when Mary and I saw her, Edgar was with her and 
usually other people. She appeared to be in a tre- 


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mendous state of excitement^ like a person drunk with 
life. Only once^ in the passage of a restaurant, did I 
get a few words alone with her, and then she squeezed 
my arm and said: 

" Dear old boy, I^m so happy." 

I wanted her to come and spend an evening alone 
with us, and she promised that she would, but at the 
last moment she telegraphed that it was impossible. 
When we tackled her with the abruptness of the wedding 
arrangements, she laughed and explained that she was 
shortly going on a tour in Holland and Germany, and 
that if she married and took Edgar it would save taking 
a maid. Edgar said that this was quite true, and that 
he was taking lessons in needle-work, and studying the 
construction of lingerie. 

" I see what you mean by his being the wrong man," 
I said to Mary one day. " He always flirts with her. 
If you love anybody very much you don't flirt with 
them — except, perhaps, sometimes when you are 

" Edgar is quite the wrong sort of person for Laura," 
answered my wife. "He'll feed all that side of her 
which craves for success and glamour, and starve the 

" There's never been anyone yet who has influenced 
her at all. She has done just what she thought she 
would. It's queer how different we are. I am like 
clay in the hands of the potter," I said, kissing my 
wife's hair. Then she held my cheeks between her 
hands and looked at my eyes quizzically. 

" You're a funny old tiling I " she said. 


I was now earning one hundred and fifty pounds a 
year as a scene-painter. I felt very important I was 


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a married man, with a bouse and a child and responsi- 
bilities. The years had slipped by almost unnoticed. 
We no Icmger bathed Midge. Madeline performed that 
operation by herself. She b^an to talk and to have 
ideas of her own. I bored the men at the studio with a 
repetition of her remarks and stories. During my 
work I would suddenly stop and dream of her. I could 
almost feel her little arms round my neck, and hear 
the merry ripple of her voice. She was already like 
Mary, not only in looks, but in that mothering, man- 
aging way of doing things. Another Mary to lighten 
the dark spaces of the world. And I would sigh, and 
dream, and dream, till suddenly the voice of Mr. Becher 
would boom across the ro(Hn: 

^' On such a night, when the sweet wind did gently 

kiss the trees, and they did make no noise Boy! 

. • . Take wassail to Mr. Purbeck ; he is sighing his love 
towards the Orecian tent, where Cressid lay that 

Was I completely happy? I couldn't tell. Some- 
times a wave of restless ambition would sweep over 
me, the kind of ambition that Laura had, and then the 
voices would become mute under the sheer beauty and 
tranquillity of the hour. Life seemed suflBcient unto 
itself. Why should I be ambitious? I was fully 
conscious that my career, so-called, was a poor thing 
compared with Laura's^ Here was I, nearly thirty, 
utterly unknown and undistinguished, earning a meagre 
wage, with no particular prospects. Indeed, the pros- 
pects were not as bright as they had promised to be. 
The scene-painting world was passing through a diffi- 
cult time, owing to the encroachments of the upholsterer. 
People no longer wrote plays which demanded forest 
glades, or cornfields crimson with poppies. Nearly* all 
our sets were interiors. " The moming^room at Lady 
Blanksyde's.'^ Just white panelling to be ruled out to 


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scale, and the furniture man did the rest. Had it not 
been for pantomime, we should have had little play 
for our fancy. No one is interested in the personality 
of the man who rules out the panelling in Lady Blank- 
syde's moming^room. But Laura — Laura would 
probably know the real Lady Blanksyde herself. She 
would play in her drawing-room, feel quite at home at 
her country-house party, assume it as her right to be 
flirted with by Lady Blanksyde's guests. On the other 
hand, the little house in the Plane Tree Grove, with 
its gas going wrong, and the geyser which leaked, and 
all the petty household troubles. And Mary suddenly 
discovering a streak of grey hair, and Madeline's voice : 
" Daddy, daddy, when are you going to bring me home 
that big, big Noah's Ark? " 

Would I change all this with Laura? Sometimes 
yes. Sometimes no. Mostly no. Oh, yes, assuredly 
no. Laura disturbed me, but she did not make me 
envious^ A far more disconcerting element was Eadic. 
Radic, the madman, who did one thing well and with a 
fine frenzy. I felt somehow ashamed of meeting Badic. 
I knew fliat he despised my profession. He would 
sneer and show his yellow teeth like a jackal. " Paintr 
ing for business I Bah! These chevaliers d'tn- 

Sometimes I wondered whether there was anything 
in life to be sought for but happiness. And generally 
I persuaded myself that there was not. I was wildly 
happy . . . only on occasions would come that sudden 
vague emptiness, as though some deep chord in my 
nature was craving expression ... as though I was 
only marking time. 


When Laura returned from the Continent, a change 
in her became apparent. She seemed more developed, 


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more /florid. More brilliant than ever to look at, she 
indulged in effects which are usually denoted by the 
word " striking." On the platform she wore crimson 
camaticms in her hair and a band of black velvet. Her 
frocks were barbaric. In her playing her tone was just 
as full and mellow, but she had developed tricks of 
exaggerating the rubato, of playing about with the time 
to get dramatic effects, of over^entimentalising. More- 
over, in her whole attitude there was more abandon. 
She swayed from the hips, and acted the music with her 
f aca She came on to the platform with the assurance of 
a star performer, and selected pieces which showed off 
her virtuosity. Concert-director Edgar Beyfus todt a 
suite of offices in Hanover Square, furnished with Chip- 
pendale and Persian rugs. He employed some half- 
dozen immaculately-dressed young clerks. Telephones 
and typewriters clanged discords in the outer offices. 
Newspaper advertisements began to speak of coming 
world-activities. The name of Laura Purbeck was never 
out of his lists. She was now referred to as ^^ the great 
English virtuoso." Cunningly arranged quotations 
from the Dutch and German newspapers gave the im- 
pression that a new comet had appeared in the musical 
heavens. Needless to say, this orgy of exploitation had 
its reaction. The soberer London journals detest a fan- 
fare. They criticised her in no measured terms. But 
their criticism in no wise affected her popular success. 
The glamour of the romance about the Cuban assassin 
still hung around her, and the glamour of her recent 
marriage fanned the flames. Everything about Laura 
was abrupt Abruptly she had leapt into fame, and 
equally abruptly the older musical societies and con- 
ductors dropped her. She became a popular draw at 
ballad-concerts, where her rendering of a trifle like the 
HumoresJee of Dvorak would never fail to bring down 
the house. The angle of her musical outlook seemed 


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to have changed abruptly. She was no longer the rest- 
less and dissatisfied student groping for beauty, uncer- 
tain, mysterious, reverent. She was a mistress of her 
moods. Whenever we saw her she was always in the. 
highest spirits. One night I said to Mary: 

" If only she would cry ! I would like her to come to 
me one day and — like she did in the old days — sud- 
denly be uncertain of herself, not understand herself, 
but just be natural and have a good cry. It can't be 
right to be so satisfied/' 

A few days later they came and told me that Kadic 
was dead. He had died suddenly in a nursing-home, 
after an operation on the throat. The news moved me 
profoundly. My poor old madman! He was just 
twenty-seven — a comet indeed. He had scrambled 
through his untidy life under the momentum of an 
almost undefined impulse. Old warring currents 
stirred in his past. Who could tell the bitterness and 
the anguish that went to his making? He never 
spoke of his mother or of his people, but he sometimes 
talked feelingly of his country. Small, unhealthy, bit- 
ter, greedy, cynical, and lascivious, and yet under the 
folds of this tragic entity there stirred something big. 
^ I liked him because he was transparent. Tl^e world to 
him was just a ridiculous place. If he had found it 
different, he, too, might have been different. He was 
remorseless in his sincerity. Doubtless, in the years to 
come, people would observe a low-toned landscape hang- 
ing on a wall, and they would say, " By Jove ! that's a 
fine thing. Who did that?" And then I could see 
the sallow face of my friend peering across the ages 
suspiciously. He would be licking his lips and fidget- 
ing, as he muttered, " You fool ! What do you know 
about it?" 

Most vividly came back to me the memory of that 
day when I told Radic the story about the Cuban. He 


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never read the newspapers, so he had heard nothing 
about it. He listened to all I had to say, fidgeting with 
a palette as he did so. He grinned, and uttered little 
clucks of derision. When I had finished he remarked : 

" Well, that was one up on Beyfus, anyway." Then 
he squeezed out a long wriggle of flake-white, and added : 

" I was certain it wasn't the Guamerius they burned. 
That proves it" 

I protested that he was wrong in that respect. Laura 
would never have consented to such a criminal action. 
Suddenly Radic put the palette down and caught hold 
of my waistcoat-button. 

" Purbeck," he said, " if the world was composed of 
more fools like you, and less knaves like Beyfus — I'd 
start all over again. Yes, believe me. I'd go to church, 
and wear clean collars. I'd read the newspapers. I'd 
believe in God." 


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ANNA was barely twenty when she became at- 
tached to Mr. Becher's studio. She occupied 
L a small room off the passage, where she did all 
the accounts and the typewriting. She was the subject 
of endless but quite innocuous mirth by all the members 
of the staff. Mr. Becher called her Eosalind, Duncan 
called her the Queen Bee. We all had our pet names 
for her, but we were very circumspect and proper in 
our attitude towards her. Anna did not encourage 
frivolity. She was reserved, competent, and a little 
matronly. I have never known anyone so changeable in 
appearance. She seemed to be a hundred different 
women, and each one with an aspect of her own. I was 
always having to peep into her room to see whether she 
was anyone fresh. Her face was rather heavily- 
modelled for her age, and her figure developed and yet 
slim. At her best she was undoubtedly a very pretty 
girl. At her worst a very interesting and appealing 
child. She had masses of light-brown hair, and a clear, 
warm complexion. Her movements were brisk; her 
expressions slow and watchful. She appeared to take 
no notice of anyone, and yet to be ever on the alert. 
She had queer blue-grey eyes that hardly' ever looked 
at you, except occasionally to give you a quick, pene- 
trating glance. It was difficult to get her to talk. She 
was very shy, but self-contained. This very reserve 
piqued your interest. You felt that she had a depth 


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of feeling, of passion perhaps, as yet nnawakened. Her 
Yoioe was low, musical, and refined. She spoke to ns, 
not as thongh she disliked ns, bnt as though she thought 
we were just amusing little people she was oliserving 
from the heights of Parnassus. We did not count very 
much, one way or the other. One day Mr. Becher re- 

" That girl will drive me mad. When I go in there 
to dictate a letter I feel like a schoolboy addressing the 
Sphinx. I want to be young and make love to her, just 
to see what happens. She has everything. Dido and 
^neas, Paolo and Francesca, Lady Macbeth, Rosalind, 
Mary Magdalene, Becky Sharp, Catherine of Russia, 
Boadicea, the smell of Parma violets, the tears of 
Beethoven, laughter, Zejihyr with Aurora playing when 
he met her once a-maying, and so on, and so forth. 
She's a kind of embryo of all these things. I wish one 
of you boys would make love to her and tell me all 
about it" 

These remarks were only addressed to Duncan and 
myself, and I knew, as a matter of fact, that it was 
superfluous to give Dtmcan this advice, for I had al- 
ready observed his advances. Duncan was like a male 
bird in the mating season. His feathers were at their 
glossiest when Anna entered the room. His rich col- 
ouring appeared to express his virility. His voice, 
when he addressed her, assiuned a mellow timbre like a 
warm caress. He gave a superb exhibition of modu- 
lated empressement. He said nothing excessive, only in 
his manner and the tones of his voice did he betray the 
erotic craftsman. There was something positively dis- 
gusting in the way that he went to work. And he was 
such a good-looking boy. 

" If Anna stands up to this," I thought, " she will 
be a very remarkable little — typist ! " 

Duncan pursued her during the whole of one winter 


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ANNA 18» 

without achieving any success at alL Anna would have 
nothing to do with him. 

'^ She's not my quarry, old man," he said to me one 
day. " She's certainly going to be someone's, but I've 
drawn a blank." 

'^Tou are a beast," I replied. "Why don't you 
leave her alone? You know you're just fooling. 
You've no idea of marrying her." 

" I don't know," he said. " I hadn't at first. It's 
awfully runu But Fm simply getting crazy on that 
girl. I believe I would marry her if I had a chance." 

In the middle of the afternoon, a few days later, 
Duncan suddenly came to me and asked me to come out 
to the yard at the back. He looked very red in the 
face and crestfallen. 

" I've had a hell of a time, old man," he said, when 
we were alone. "I lost my head. I went in there. 
She was standing up, leaning over some papers. I went 
up and put my arms around her, and kissed her on the 
cheeks and lips. My God, it was awful ! She flew at 
me like a panther. She struck me in the face. She 
snatched up a ruler. I've never seen such a face — 
blazing. I just bolted. I'm afraid there'll be a row. 
She'll teU the guv'nor, or resign, or lie in wait and 


I told him that it served him right. At the same 
time, we didn't want a rumpus, so I suggested that I 
should go and apologise for him, and say that he simply 
lost his head, and he was very sorry. Duncan agreed, 
and I immediately went to her room. She was seated 
at the typwriter. Her eyes were very bright and her 
cheeks flushed. She looked uncommonly pretty. I 
stood by the door and said : 


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" Excuse me, Miss Kempner, Mr. Brice has asked me 
to come and offer you his apologies. He had been out 
to lunch with some chaps. They had a bottle of wine. 
He's awfully sorry he made such a fool of himself. 
He lost his head. He promises not to do anything of 
the sort again, if you will forgive him." 

For nearly ten seconds her eyes were fixed on mina 
I felt her looking right through me, to see whether I 
was speaking the truth or whether I was laughing at 
her. It seemed an eternity. At last she lowered her 
eyes and said: 

"All right.'' 

She shru^ed her shoulders, as though the whole thing 
was beneath contempt. She fiddled about with the 
machine. As I was going out of the door she looked up 
at me again, and I could not take my eyes from hers. 
Something nearly approaching a smile lightened her 
face. I managed to gasp : 

" It's very good of you." 

She looked down, and the noisy machine began to 

This little incident appeared to establish a bond be- 
tween Anna and myself. On several occasions I found 
her watching me with a queer, deep anxiety. I felt 
enormously flattered. I was the only one of the staff 
that she trusted, with, perhaps, the exception of Mr. 
Becher, whom everyone treated like a child. On one 
or two occasions she even ventured to address a remark 
to me about the work, and I was careful to show that 
I had no intention of taking advantage of this little 
attention. She never referred again to the incident 
with Duncan, and she did not treat him with any 
special show of animosity. The little tigress in her was 
appeased, and I felt glad that I had had a small share 
in the appeasement. During the lunch-hour I some- 
times found her reading in the outer office, and I would 


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ANNA 141 

go and have a few words with her about books. I real- 
ised the importance of being very gradual in my 
advances. She interested me, and I wanted to draw her 
out I pictured one day taking her home and intro- 
ducing her to Mary. Mary would be sure to find a 
mine of interest in Anna. She would help her, intro- 
duce her to our friends, perhaps to just the right friend. 
The girl seemed out of place in this Paddington office. 

I don't know what I expected, but I was rather dis- 
appointed in her choice of literature. She was a 
voracious reader, but Marie Corelli seemed to be her 
ideal. Marie Corelli, Edna Lyall, H. Seton Merri- 
man, Mrs. Humphry Ward, and other people whose 
names I had never heard of. I think I expected to 
find her reading Alfred de Musset, or Cervantes, or at 
least Tolstoy. But it didn't matter. She was primi- 
tive, unformed. Mr. Becher was right. She was the 
embryo of every feminine past, present, and future 

I learnt, after a time, that she lived with her mother 
and two sisters in a fiat near Paddington Eecreation 
Ground, about ten minutes' walk from the studio. Her 
mother was the widow of a north-country dentist. 
They had at one time been quite well off. One of 
her sisters managed a penny bazaar; the other was 
studying calisthenics witib the idea of becoming an in- 
structress; whilst a third sister had married a clergy- 
man and lived at Southend. Anna herself had 
attended a well-known ladies' college in Yorkshire; 
when she was only fourteen her father died, and the 
family had to retrench. I got all this information out 
of her piecemeal. Sometimes, if we happened to leave 
the studio at the same time, I would walk with her 
to the comer of her road. I found her a sympathetic 
listener to my stories about Madeline. Her eyes 
lighted up and she really laughed. It was a great joy 


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to mBy as I walked down in the morning and recalled 
some particularly bright saying of Madeline's, to think 
to myself, " I must tell Anna that. She will enjoy it/' 
The men had been somewhat chilling about my daugh- 
ter's exploits and repartee, and it made a great 
difference to feel that at last I had someone to con- 
fide to. 

February and March that year were depressing 
months, windy and wet, and the country was suffering 
from what is known as a wave of economic unrest 
Mary developed varicose veins in her left leg and was 
obliged to remain indoors. Madeline had a series of 
colds which kept her from school. Mrs. Copley lost 
a lot of money, owing to the failure of a copra company 
in which she had shares. My father had a return of 
rheumatism in the eyes. TJncle Stephen had broken 
out into betting again, and been unsuccessful. No one 
seemed to be having a good time except Laura, who 
now occupied an imposing flat in Mayfair, and kept 
two servants and three chows, and took cabs every- 

Our house began to show splotches of damp, and the 
builder said it required underpinning, an operation 
which would cost sixty-five pounds, and which the land- 
lord refused to have anything to do with. I was not 
making enough money, and I could not ask Mr. Becher 
for an increase. The scene-painting world was not 

Suddenly I began to be assailed by that fatal vision 
which looks at life in perspective. We should be get- 
ting old. I had accomplished nothing. I could not 
even repair the wall-paper sagging in the hall. Mary 
thought I was " a funny old thing." The mjen thought 
I was "a queer old chap." The Rev. Parke Tidsall 
had hinted that I should never get on because I was 
nothing but " just a nice boy." 

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ANKA 143 

THe only person in whose eyes I seemed to loom as 
something large and significant was Anna Kempner. 
With her I felt important, a living force, an exceptional 


Things being slack, Mr. Becher said one day that we 
could all leave oflF at four o'clock. I walked home with 
Anna, and just as I was leaving her, she looked at me 
timidly, and said : 

" Would you care to come home to tea with mother ? " 

I answered that I should be delighted. Mrs. Kemp- 
ner was a solidly-built old lady, with a pleasant manner. 
She shook hands and said: 

" I'm very pleased to meet you, Mr. Purbeck. Fve 
heard a lot about you. My daughter tells me how clever 
you are.'' 

Clever ! I blushed to the roots of my hair and stam- 
mered dissent Anna thought I was clever! No one 
had ever accused me of being clever before. What on 
earth was I clever at? But it must be true, because 
Anna thought so. I glowed with pride. I admired 
the room and Mrs. Kempner's taste in decoration. 
We talked for some time, and then the calisthenic 
sister came it. She was taller than Anna, a strong, 
fresh-complexioned girl, but equally reserved. As I 
sat in the company of these three women I could not 
help being impressed by their healthy fuU-bloodedness. 
The room was very clean, the window open, and a 
warm March wind fanned the lace curtains. It was 
like being out in the open, and yet being warm and 
comfortable. They were very simple and easy to talk 
to. In Mrs. Kempner and the sister there was some- 
thing Amazonian. Anna had the physique, but she 
was softer, rounder, more feline. A magpie in a cage 


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uttered shrill notes of discord. The others did not 
seem to notice it 

I tried to describe the room afterwards to Mary. I 
did not really admire Mrs. Kempner's taste in furnish- 
ing, but the room had a peculiar hypnotic eflfect on 
mc. The furniture was rather like the furniture 
father had in the parlour at *^ The Duchess of Pless/' 
but there was much less of it, and everything was 
mercilessly polished. The wall-paper was in white 
stripes and the lace curtains were caught up with a 
crimson sash. On the tea-table was a pot of red berries. 
It was a bright, undistinguished room, and yet, as the 
March wind crept through the open window and the 
magpie screamed, I felt that I was being translated 
to some unexpected and transcendental state of being. 
I wanted to talk, and I did talk. I talked better than 
I 1 d ever talked before. And Anna kept on looking 
at me, and giving quick little glances at her mother 
and sister. When I told Mary this, she laughed, and 

" You are a funny old thing ! '* 

And I could see nothing funny about it at all. 

After that it became quite a habit. On two or 
three days a week I would go home to tea with Anna. 
It was very convenient and pleasant. And then, one 
day at the beginning of April, I asked her to tea on a 
Sunday to meet Mary. I felt tremendously excited 
about this event. I felt that it was of the utmost 
importance that Mary should like Anna. It was a 
bright spring day and we had tea in the dining-room. 
I donH know how it was, but the meeting was not a 
success. We were all at our worst. Anna was very 
shy, almost taciturn. Mary did most of the talking, 
and that was mostly about shopping, and frocks, and 
actors. All my brilliance had vanished. I could say 
nothing. I did nothing but fidget and look from one to 


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ANNA 145 

the other, and pray for inspiration. And then Mad- 
eline came in, and she was in one of her perverse moods. 
She had been very upset because Mary would not let 
her go and play with some boys in a disused railway- 
yard, and she was inclined tp be peevish. 

I was quite relieved whfn it became time for Anna 
to go. I saw her on to a 'bus. When I got back I 
asked Mary anxiously what she thought of her. 

" Oh,'' she said, " she seems quite nice . . . rather 
quiet, perhaps.'' 

Oh, damn! 


The heavy scowl of London broke into a smile at the 
approach of spring. Fresh flowers pushed their way 
through the soot-begrimed earth in our garden. The 
black trees developed surprising patterns of pink . id 
white. Window-boxes, gay with tulipjs and margue-. 
rites, symbolised the rejuvenescence of exhausted 
humanity. Women put away their furs and fought 
at bargain sales for the spoils of sartorial genius. 
Young men broke out into coloured socks and ties, 
walked down to business and asked their guv'nors for 
a rise, got refused, and didn't care. What did it mat- 
ter? The old earth had been saving up for this 
moment all the winter. There would always be a girl 
on the 'bus to ogle on the way home. Any day might 
produce a millennium. At its worst, it couldn't avoid 
a romance. Duncan announced that he formally 
handed Anna over to me. He had other irons in the 
fire. He hummed from morning till night, like a bee 
above the clover. 

Of course, I expected that. I knew the men would 
begin to make innuendoes about Anna and me. They 
were a decent lot of chaps, but their standard of moral- 
ity was not very high. Old Jouquet, who painted 


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figure-panels and wouldn't drink beer, was a coarse 
old beast. He treated my assertion that my affection 
for Anna was purely fraternal or paternal as being a 
splendid jest. 

Duncan said to him one day, "I bet youVe been 
round some comers in your time, Jouk." 

" My boy,'' he answered, " I've done everything pos- 
sible. I haven't it on my conscience that I have ever 
missed a single opportunity." 

And he clucked his tongue like a well-satisfied 

Anna was certainly becoming very necessary to me. 
I spent, of course, the greater part of my waking time 
at the studio. I left home in the morning at half- 
past eight, and I arrived back in the evening some- 
what exhausted. Mary said I was getting dull. She 
sometimes remarked, "You are not listening to what 
I say." And when I answered, *' Yes, I am, darling," 
she would say quickly, " Then what did I say ? " And 
then, of course, I didn't know. It was deplorable. 
I had to pull myself together. 

One day Duncan and I had to call at a West End 
theatre to take particulars of some scenery that was to 
be adapted. We finished our work rather sooner than 
we expected. 

" As we are here," said Duncan, " we'll go and have 
lunch somewhere decent." 

I felt in the mood for some mild dissipation, so we 
Went to the Trocadero. Down in the grill-room a 
band was playing. Duncan, in his lordly way, ordered 
a large bottle of Beaune. We did ourselves very well. 
We became extremely garrulous. He made me several 
intimate confessions. I was a dull dog in comparison, 
but the wine went to my head. I kept on thiiJting of 
Laura, then of Anna. This was Laura's life. Music, 
and thrills, and wine, and good things, everything 


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ANNA 147 

heated . . . exhilarating. Life, life — what was that 
thing they were playing? ... A Spanish dance. 
Dark-eyed women in mantillas, swaying in a rose- 
tinted room, with the violet night outside; love and 
passion. Why do some people inherit all these things, 
take them as their birthright, whilst others . . . ? 
After all, what is anything in comparison with this? 
The primal appeal of the life-force . . . The only 
thing that counts. 

Looking past Duncan I suddenly saw Anna, not in 
actuality but in a kind of fury of my imagination. An 
amazing and significant fact concerning her seemed to 
grip my will and hold me spellbound. I wanted to say 
to Duncan: 

" She^s saving them for her lover." 

And then I could not explain it to him. I had 
noticed so often, but had learnt nothing from it till 
that moment Anna never kissed anyone — not even 
her mother. She had a curious way of holding out 
the point of her jaw for the other person to kiss. 
She did it with Mary. She did it with her sisters. 
She even did it with her mother. It was as though she 
was under a vow. All the message of those full, strong 
lips was being hoarded for someone. All her reserve 
was the sluice-gates of a mighty dam. She was pas- 
sion personified. She was concentrating on a subcon- 
scious purpose. She was hoarding. She was atavistic. 
And then my colleague, with his : " She^s going to be 
someone's quarry." 

A feeling of spiritual shock came to me. I was 
stunned. I could not hear what Duncan was saying. 
He was talking about a chorus-girl he had met at the 
seaside. It seemed trivial and ridiculous. I wanted 
to scream across the table at him: 

" Can't you see, you fool, she's saving them for her 
lover? That's why she scratched you." 


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Duncan ordered a liqueur, and I drank it The 
band was playing something Hungarian now, but it 
was all on the same theme : 

"She's saving them for her lover." 

The madness which assailed me after this episode is 
a thing I cannot analyse. When we got back to the 
studio I had to rush and peep at her in her room, 
to see whether she was still there, or whether she was 
even yet another woman — perhaps Cleopatra, or Dido, 
or Pallas Athene. Yes, I should certainly have placed 
her among the myths that afternoon : possibly the Lady 
of Shalot; the typewriter would make an excellent 
loom. She looked up and said : 


I answered : " Oh, I thought perhaps uncle was in 
here," and I darted away. 

Problems and questionings piled one upon another. 

" Why should one man have so much ? " 

I avoided her. I did not go home to tea with her. 
I pretended to myself that the solution did not con- 
cern me. I warded it off for a whole week, fully know- 
ing the answer. And then, one night in bed, the ironic 
voice said: 

" It is all yours for the asking." 

I felt almost relieved to acknowledge this to myself. 
At last I was under no illusion. All that remained 
was to keep myself in hand, to retain my sense of pro- 
portion. It could not be difficult. I hurried home in 
the evenings. I was busy making Madeline a minia- 
ture theatre. . . . 

Ten days went by, during which I did not speak to 
Anna unless it was about some matter concerning the 


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ANNA 149 

work. Then, one afternoon, she met me in the passage. 
She rested her hand on my arm, and said : 

"Will you come home to tea to-day, Mr. Pnr- 

I was surprised. I thought she must know that I 
was trying to avoid her. I stanmiered and said, " Yes, 
with pleasure." 

I did not see how I could refuse; besides — what 
harm could there be? Her mother and sister, and 
the harsh-toned magpie, and the bright crockery — 
all very, very — safe. 

It was a warm evening, and we walked in silence to 
the door of the flat. Anna opened the door with her 
latchkey. I put down my hat and we entered the 
drawing-room. It was empty. Anna left me for a 
few minutes; then she returned with a loose wrapper 
over her shoulders. She came straight up to me and 

" They are all out No one will be back for two 

Then she closed her eyes and held up her lips to me. 

Neither of us spoke a word. I do not think that for 
the whole time I was there — nearly an hour and a 
half — we exchanged a single sentence. Even when 
I left I could not get my voice. I was too ashamed to 
say good-bye. 


I went through agonies of elation and remorse. I 
don't think that at any time I lost sight of one central 
fact — I did not love Anna, not in the big way, not in 
the way I loved Mary. But she was a madness which 
coloured my life. Had it not been for that abrupt 
conception of her as a girl " saving her lips for her 
lover " I might have been less foolish. As it was, she 


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was a torment — and a torment I could not share with 
Maiy. In her presence I was day in the hands of 
the potter. Her kisses maddened me. It could not 
go on. We arranged chance meetings. Once I tdd 
Mary I was going to the theatre with Duncan, and I 
took Anna up on Hampstead Heath. At other times 
I went home to tea with her when her mother and 
sister were out 

^^All these years she has been saving her lips for 

I could not escape the obsession of this central idea. 
I felt all my moral fibre loosening. I began to drink, 
in order to escape. One evening I held her in my 
arms. We were in a dark passage of the flats. I 
whispered : 

"Anna, will you come away with me for a week- 
end quietly ? " 

She clung to me and said, " Yes.'' 

We had been working late, and I had drunk a lot of 
port I laughed savagely and pinched her. I wanted 
to hurt her. 

"You darling!" I said. "Then, listen. We will 
go down to Felixstowe on Saturday. There is quite a 
decent hotel there. No one will hiow us. I tell you 
what we'll do. We'll go down separately. We'll 
occupy separate bedrooms . . . adjoining, do you see ? 
I got the tip from Duncan. It works better. In case 
anything came out afterwards, don't you understand? 
. . . nothing could be proved. Separate names, sep- 
arate bags, everything . . . mustn't run risks." 

She nodded gravely. 

I could hardly breathe. In the night I decided to 
countermand the whole thing. I could not sleep. On 
the morrowj Mary said: 

" You are looking very pale, darling. You look as 
though you want a change." 

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ANNA 151 

It seemed almofit like the finger of fate. Instanta- 
neously I went back on my noctamal resolution. 

" It is funny," I said, " that you should have said 
that. Duncan wanted me to go down to Felixstowe with 
him for the week-end. Do you think it would be all 

" Of course, darling." 

Dash it! if she hadn^t been so sweet about it, how 
much easier it would have been! If she had only 
been suspicious or hostile, or even diflSdent — but that 
warm-hearted " Of course, darling ! " How I hated 
myself ! 

The daflPodils were clustering in masses in the 
park. The starlings were busy among the sprout- 
ing shrubs. The world seemed quivering with senti- 
ent movement. The days drifted by. After all . . . 

On Saturday the face of London changed again. It 
had that sullen stare which is surely foreign to any 
other city. The skies were an unbroken pall of leaden 
grey, as though it had always rained, and it always 
meant to rain for ever and ever. Irresolution was 
my reigning goddess. The fact that I had given way 
to the idea in thought seemed to discard all my better 
promptings in deed. Even if I didn't go — my mind 
was bitten with the acid of a feral impulse. 

"I shall get drunk," I thought. "And then it 
won't seem so awful." 

I hugged the thought all the morning. I hated my- 
seK sober. Anna gave me her slow smile. 

" The train is 4.15, you said ? " 

"Yes, 4.15 from Liverpool Street." 

I limched with Duncan and drank an enormous quan- 
tity of beer. I went home about three o'clock to col- 
lect my bag. The rain was still coming down in 
torrents. I could not look at Mary. In the drawing- 
room a fire was burning brightly. The tea was laid 


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on a silver tray by the Chesterfield. Madeline would 
be in later . . . 

" I've packed your bag, darling/^ 

" Oh, thanks." 

" What a disgusting day ! I'm afraid you are wet 
I've put out some socks for you. You had better 
change at once." 

"Thanks; I will." 

I crept upstairs. I was tingling all over. My bag 
was packed and neatly strapped. The room seined 
dark. I could not focus anything. Absently I 
changed my socks. The rain came in squalls against 
the window. I switched on the light. Some impulse 
made me glance down at my feet. As I did so, I felt 
my heart beat rapidly. I stared at the socks on my 
feet as though I was looking at a ghost. One was a 
brown woolly one, the other was a black one with a 
light blue clock. They were identical with the ones 
— I had worn on ... on our honeymoon — Mary's 
and mine. . . . 

When I went down to the drawing-room the firelight 
was playing on her face and on the arms of the chintz- 
covered chair. Otherwise the room was in deep 
shadow. An unfamiliar noise greeted my ears. Mary 
was weeping. 

I believe I wept, too, then. 

I went down on my knees. . . . 

I never went to Felixstowa 


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ONE night early in June we dined with Laura 
and Edgar at their Mayfair flat The other 
guests were a Mr. and Mrs. Burwell and a 
young German pianist named Freitel. Mr. Burwell 
was a well-nurtured, elderly gentleman who was rather 
deaf. Having plenty of money, he had devoted his 
whole life to travelling about the earth slaughtering 
animals. He had killed caribou in Iceland, bears in 
Siberia, lions in Africa, and cheetahs up in the Hi- 
malayas. He had inherited the fortune which allowed 
him to indulge in this orgy of bloodshed from an uncle 
who owned a drapery establishment in the West End, 
employing several thousand anaemic girls. His wife 
was a fair-haired woman with a long neck bound up 
with a quadruple line of pearls. She whinnied when 
you spoke to her. Freitel was an earnest, thoughtful- 
looking boy in horn spectacles. He spoke better 
English than I have ever heard spoken by an English- 
man. He talked slowly, cleaning up each word as he 
went along, looking ahead, building up sentences which 
dazzled you with their logic and construction and 
length. His sentences were like verbal sky-scrapers. 

Laura was wearing a gorgeous frock of old-gold satin 
with touches of green, and a jade necklace. I thought 
she looked pale and rather on edge. She was inclined 
to be snappy when we arrived. She pulled Mary up 


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over one of her pet stories about Madeline. She was 
quite rude to Mrs. Burwell because she whinnied at 
the wrong moment when Freitel was developing an 
argument It was a curiously strained dinner-party. 
We all seemed uncertain why we were asked to meet 
each other. I was subtly aware that all the time there 
was some undercurrent of dissension going on between 
Edgar and Laura. We all seemed to be pawns in the 
game. This was particularly true of Freitel. I could 
not tell whether Edgar had invited him, or Laura, but 
one was playing him off against the other. When he 
spoke they exchanged challenging glances. 

Edgar did most of the talking, in his quick, level 
tones. He was equally charming to everybody. He 
even talked about moose and caribou and wild duck and 
twelve-bore guns as though he knew something about it. 
He nearly elicited a complete sentence out of Mrs. 
Burwell, but it ended in a neigh. He was interested 
to hear that I had left Mr. Becher's studio and had 
gone into partnership with a young man named Jevons. 
He flattered Mary about her frock. He paid his wife 
pretty compliments. He drew out Freitel. If the 
dinner-party was not a success, it could certainly not 
be attributed to our host. 

When the champagne arrived, Laura seemed grad- 
ually to melt to a more genial mood. Mr. BurwelPs 
bloody tales, which before had disgusted her, now 
only made her laugh. The dinner was excellent — 
it goes without saying. Two neat maids waited swiftly 
and dexterously. I could not help being intrigued 
by the remarkable contrast between Mr. Burwell and 
Freitel, who both sat opposite me. Burwell, with his 
comfortable urbanity, ensconced in the familiar security 
of a good dinner, letting fall sayings like, " By Gad ! 
Beyfus, seven guns and a bag of three hundred," and 
the studious detachment of Freitel, a little shy in his 


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surroundings, unwilling to accept either food or state- 
ment without the most minute consideration. I once 
detected him smelling a piece of pheasant on his fork, 
not as though he harboured any suspicion of secret 
treachery by his host, but as though he wished to assure 
himself of his complete understanding of organic life. 
He heralded most of his opinions with a preamble 
somewhat like this : 

" I do not feel myself fully qualified in this partic- 
ular case either to dissent from, or in any way to 
qualify, the extremely interesting theory you have 
advanced, notwithstanding a considerable period of my 
life devoted to — what I think I may adjudge — an 
exhaustive study of collateral theories. I am handi- 
capped, perhaps, by my allegiance to the never-to-be- 
overlooked doctrines of Herr Professor Eitel von 
Strumpfmeyer, whose constructive system of ethics and 
high spiritual outlook has always been an inspiration 
t) me. Nevertheless . . ." 

He and Mr. Burwell occasionally looked at each 
other as though each was observing an almost unbeliev- 
able relic in a museum of curiosities. 


When Laura had had three glasses of champagne she 
began to ask Mary about Madeline. She adored Made- 
line, but she seemed to have peculiar moods about the 
child. There were times when she disliked us talking 
about her, and other times when we couldn't talk 
enough. Auntie Laura was always a great favourite 
when she honoured us with a visit, and no one found 
such wonderful and uncommon toys. From the sub- 
ject of Madeline she flew at a violent tangent to the 
subject of the great success she had had two nights 
previously in Birmingham. 

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" The place was packed. They simply loved the 

Silver and glass sparkled on the dark oak table. 
Carnations and gentians snuggled in little beds of moss 
beneath the modulated lights. 

Edgar raised his glass^ and looked across it at Laura 
with an expression which seemed to signify that some 
crisis was passed. 

^' Laura had a great success/' he said, addressing us 
all. " An enormous success. *' 

" Good ! good ! " exclaimed Mr, Burwell, with his 
mouth full of quail. " That's what I like to hear. 
Do you know what my old uncle used to say, Beyfus — 
and he was a successful man, if ever there was one: 
rose from nothing, fought his way up " 

" What did he say, Mr. Burwell ? " asked Laura. 

" He said to me, * Success has its price, Henry.' 
Now what do you think of that ? He said it not once, 
but a hundred times. 

" * Success has its price ! ' That's what the old boy 
said. Well, he worked hard, I must say. Always 
trouble with the work-people — lazy, shifty lot of 
devils. Ha, ha, ha! you're a lucky one, Mrs. Beyfus. 
Tou don't have anything of that. No one to worry 
you — all on your own — leaping upwards to fame and 
fortune, eh?" 

The student cleared his throat and drank some water. 
Then in his steady voice he said: 

" Will you tell me precisely what you mean by suc- 
cess, Mr. — er ? " 

Mr. Burwell looked annoyed. Danm these foreign- 
ers ! He waved his hand contemptuously. 

" Success ? Why, success is getting on, making 
money, getting talked about, of course. What else do 
you suppose ? " 

Edgar nodded and smiled indulgently at the boy. 


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*' How would you define success, Herr Freitel ? " 

The young musician blinked and looked timidly at 
Laura as though for support. Then he lowered his 
eyes and pinched a piece of bread into a pellet. 

" Success ? ... It is to know one's heart when one 
is alone on the mountain-tops." 

There was an uncomfortable pause, shattered by a 
rude guffaw from Mr. Burwell. It was Mary who 
saved the situation. 

"I think Herr Freitel's is much the nicer defini- 
tion," she said, smiling. 

" Are we to have coffee in the other room, my dear ? " 
Edgar almost yawned, and rose to fetch the cigars. 

After dinner we seemed to fall away into groups. 
The drawing-room appeared too large for our small 
company. On an ebony stand by the piano was a large 
gilt* basket filled with pink roses arranged in festoons. 
In had been presented to Laura two days before by 
some influential person in Birmingham. We gathered 
round it. 

" Isn't it a shame I " Laura remarked. ^* They only 
gave it me two days ago, and the roses are already be- 
ginning to die." 

Freitel murmured something. I caught the word 
" success." 

"Well, of course, they're wired," exclaimed Mr. 
Burwell. " They never last when they're wired." 

Mrs. Burwell exploded : " Oh, Henry always knows 
about anything to do with — he, he, he, he I " 

Her husband barked, his way to the most comforta- 
ble chair, and Edgar stood with his back to the fireplace 
and talked to him. Laura and Freitel whispered over 
a pile of music. Mary and I tried to prevent Mrs. 
Burwell from having a fit of hysterics because of some 
incident she was trying to tell us about a bishop losing 
his overcoat at a flower-show. The atmosphere of the 


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room seemed charged with an ahnost unbearable sense 
of nervous tension. I donH know how long this went 
on before Mr. Burwell bawled across the room: 
" Won't you play us a piece, Mrs. Beyfus ? " 
Laura did not look at him. She replied curtly: 
" No, I'm not playing any ' pieces ' to-night. But 
Herr Freitel is good enough to say that he will play 
to us." 


We all gave that murmur of approval which is ex- 
pected of a company at such an announcement. Herr 
Ereitel sat down at the piano. 

I am no great judge of music, but I do not think I 
have ever heard the piano sound so beautiful. All the 
academic, dogmatic exterior of the man seemed to van- 
ish. He became a poet. This academic side was 
probably busy with the technique, but it was too care- 
fully concealed for me to detect. He played the 
Schubert Impromptu and two small pieces of 
Schumann's. His playing moved me tremendously. 
Laura sat in the window-seat alone, with her head 
averted. She was frowning, and her face looked old. 
My eye wandered from her to the gilt basket of flowers 
..." already dying." 

" Laura either loves this boy or she is jealous of 
him," I suddenly thought. 

Laura, whose name was a household word in several 
countries, jealous of an unknown student ! And yet I 
could not believe that it could be the other thing. 
Laura must be thirty-five ; the boy was uncouth, short- 
sighted — to me physically repellent. But still he 
went on, and I didn't want him to stop. He was alone 
on the mountain-tops, knowing his heart Whilst 
Laura's flowers were dying, and her "manager'* was 
standing on the hearth-rug, talking to a rich accomplice. 


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Yes, I could understand that. Success has its price, 
Henry, A topsy-turvy and difficult world. Mr. Bur- 
well's uncle and Laura had both set out to chase the 
braggart down the hill, and having started to run — 
they could not stop! At that moment I even felt sorry 
for poor old Uncle Burwell, A long struggling, nagging 
life, sweating people and bullying and being bullied, 
bartering, bargaining, scheming, looking ahead, and 
afraid to look away in case someone snatched the bauble 
from his hand. On he rushes, tripping and skipping 
over the boulders. The will-o'-the-wisp is here, there, 
and everywhere. Then suddenly a crater opens under 
his feet. It is too late. In that concentrated moment 
as he hurtles through space he realises that all that he 
has struggled for is a chimera. The products of his 
toil merely serve to supply a braggart nephew with the 
wherewithal to laze and slay. 

"Laura could not play like this. She has lost it." 

I knew that was true. Where was Laura rushing 
to ? She was far, far more brilliant than Herr Freitel, 
but she was not alone upon the mountain-tops. She 
was rushing down the hill, chasing the braggart. Her 
heart was freezing. She was afraid. What was she 
giving to the uplifting of our common life? When 
the flowers were dead, and the gilt basket buried in an 
attic, the press-notices forgotten, what then?- . . . One 
must know one's own heart. There is something bigger 
than what we call Success. 

I have an idea that there was some scheme for in- 
ducing Mr. Burwell to put money into Edgar's business. 
When Freitel had finished playing Edgar came over 
and said to Laura : 

" I wish you would play, dear^ Mr. Burwell is very 
anxious " 

Laura bit her lip, and snapped out : 
" No, I'm not going to play to-night" 


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One had only to know Laura, and to hear her say 
that, to recognise that the decision was absolutely final. 
Edgar knew it too. He made no comment, but I ob- 
served a slow, malevolent look creep at the back of 
his eyes. He shrugged his shoulders and returned to 
the fireplace. The maids brought in trays, and decan- 
ters and glass pitchers of lemonade. Blue smoke 
drifted about the room, 

" We had a screamin^ time in Cape Town. Do you 
know what Henry did one night in the Victoria ? — he, 
he, he, he I ** 

Mary was politely attentive. Laura suddenly came 
over and pinched my arm. Dark rings encircled her 
eyes. She said nothing, but I knew she wanted to 
speak to me outside. I followed her into the hall, 
and across the passage into a little boudoir. She shut 
the door. 


She stood swaying in the middle of the room, her 
face buried in her hands. 

"What's the matter, old girl?" 

She could not speak for some moments. Then she 
said suddenly : 

" Oh, Tom, take me away from here . . . take me 
home with you." 

Some awful climax had come. I felt no call to ques- 
tion her. I simply knew that she was desperately 

" Of course you can come, Laura, but " 

" It's nothing to do with Freitel. Don't think that. 
And yet it is, in a way. When he began to play . . . 
Oh, Tom, I've lost it all. You make me madly jealous, 
you and Mary. I'm slipping down, slipping . . . 



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"Fm his bond-woman. Can't you see? Oh, of 
course I love him. But we are going on together slip- 
ping down. I sometimes think I hate him, and then he 
comes and puts his arms around me, and I am help- 
less. • . . That disgusting episode about the fiddle — 
that was the beginning. One thing leads to another, 
and you can't stop. You go down and down, Tom. 
Whatever I do I know I can't get back. Oh, let me 
steal back with you. ... I would like to take Made- 
line away with me to some cottage right away in the 
country, where no one knows me . • . where there's just 
an old piano, and wild flowers, and simple people. I 
want to start again." 

"You're unstrung, old girl. Of course we could 
arrange it, but hardly to-night, suddenly like this " 

"Yes, yes, I want to go to-night. If he suspects 
me, he won't let me go. I have no power when he 
• . • Oh, Tom, let us creep away at once." 

"But Mary?" 

" Write a note and pin it on her cloak." 

"Laura, my dear, it's not workable. Edgar will 
know. He'll simply follow and fetch you back." 

" No. I shall tell him I have gone up to the moun- 
tain-tops for a time — any old lie. I shall come back 
to him, of course. I know that's inevitable. He is 
my fate, the partner I have chosen for this dance of 
fame. But to-night I am suffocated. I want to be 
free. Please, old boy." 

I thought the matter over. A thousand difficulties 
presented themselves. Why must Laura always do 
these abrupt and disturbing things? I required an 
hour to think the matter over, and here she was tugging 
at my arm. If she could only be reasonable and wait 
till to-morrow I It would be quite a natural thing for 
her to come and stay with us, or to take Madeline to 
a cottage in the country for a few days. But to- 


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night — like this, with an inadequate explanation, in a 
gorgeous frock of old gold and jade, as though she 
was fleeing from a sudden threat. Edgar would natu- 
rally suspect Freitel. Visions of duels, and broken 
heads, and scandal, and police-court scenes flashed 
through my mind. At the same time, Laura was un- 
happy . • . desperate. She might do something even 
more — unbalanced. I picked up a sheet of paper and 
scribbled : " I am taking Laura home to stay the night 
with us. Will send the cab back for you in half an 
hour. Tell Edgar she will be back to-morrow." 

I pinned this on Mary's cloak and we went out into 
the hall. Laura put on a fur coat and feverishly 
twisted a shawl round her head. Just as we reached 
the hall, the drawing-room door clicked open. Freitel 
came out of the room, followed by Edgar. Freitel 
was saying: 

" I trust that my departure does not seem pre- 
cipitate, ill-mannered. I find that late hours are 
detrimental to my work. Will you convey my 
regrets " 

Edgar did not see me at first. He was leading 
Freitel to the cloak-cupboard. He appeared quite sat- 
isfied with the sudden departure of this guest. Then 
he looked along the hall and observed Laura standing 
there in her coat and shawl . . . waiting. For the 
fraction of a second he started. Then he said in his 
purry voice : 

" Hullo, dear ! Where are you going? " 

I thought Laura was going to faint. She held on 
to the handle of the door. 

" Oh," she exclaimed jerkily, " Tom and I . • . 
Tom and I . . . were just going out . . . for a stroll. 
The room is so warm. We " 

And yet she did not move. Freitel was helped into 
his coat. He made a pretty apology to Laura and 


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kissed her hand. He brought his heels together and 
bowed to us all and took his departure. We all stood 
there in an embarrassed silence at the open door, 
listening to the clumsy beat of Freitel's heavy boots as 
he marched downstairs. They squeaked a little. A 
party of people came out of the flat opposite, laughing 
and talking. An old gentleman in evening dress rang 
the bell for the lift, exclaiming as he did so: 
" Eeally, now, really ! . . . that's too bad I " 
Edgar closed the door. With a caressing, insinuat- 
ing movement he put his arms round from behind and 
gently released her shawl. 

" I don't think I should go out to-night, dear," he 
said. " There is an east wind. It is very late. And 
— the Burwells might not understand. They are not 
yet accustomed to the — ways of artists. . . . There, 
there ; now let us go back to the drawing-room." 

The following night I paid one of my periodical 
visits to " The Duchess of Pless." I found father and 
Uncle Stephen in the little room at the back of the 
bar. They both seemed in very good spirits. Uncle 
Stephen was smoking a churchwarden, a form of pipe 
which no one could possibly enjoy, but which gives a 
good picturesque, sporting appearance to a man. They 
are now only smoked by 'Varsity undergraduates, who 
are always willing to suffer for a romantic pose. 
Uncle Stephen was in one of his hard-headed, genially 
oppressive moods. He called out : 

" Hullo, Tom ! How are you getting on ? " 
. I gave him some of the details of my new venture 
with Jevons, and he replied: 

" Well, it's about time you began to bring off some- 


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thing, old boy. You'll never be a success like your 
sister, unless you start doing something big soon." 

I answered that I was afraid I wasn't so clever as 
Laura. Indeed, I had no special ability for anything. 
Laura was a genius. 

" Yes, but look here, my lad," he replied, " you 
don't have to be a genius to get on. Work, industry, 
ambition — that's the ticket. I know a man who's a 
perfect fool, and he's earning six thousand a year," 

" Will you have a drink, Tom ? " said my father. 

" Oh, thanks, dad. . . . Could I have a brandy-and- 

"Never drink spirits, my lad," exclaimed Uncle 
Stephen. " Spirits are the curse. Beer will do you 
no harm, wine will do you no harm, but spirits eat up 
the vitals. Never touch thenu" 

" What are you drinking, uncle ? " 

" Whisky-and-water, my boy." 

We all laughed. It seemed gay and simple in the 
little parlour. Father asked after Laura, and I told 
him that we had been dining there the previous 

"Oh, la, la!" he broke in. "Yes, I know. I 
dined there one evening. I wasn't invited to meet any- 
one, mind you. But we dined, you know. All sorts 
of little faked-up dishes, and Frexwh wines. Not for 
me. Give me a cut from tiie joint and two vegetables 
and a tankard of ale, any day in the week. But still 
— there it is. That's Laura. It's her affair, not 

" Anything more been heard of the Cuban assassin, 

"No; I think he must have left the country." 

We sat talking for some time, and Uncle Stephen 
had several glasses of the stuff which eats up the vitals. 
We tods our departure at the same time, and as the 


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night was fine, we decided to walk as far as Portland 
Boad station together. 

We talked about various matters, when suddenly 
Uncle Stephen said: 

" I don't mind telling you, Tom, that your father's 
very relieved that you hardly drink at all. He was 
very worried about you at one time." 

"Worried about me! But I never showed any dis- 
position " 

" It's not that. Didn't he ever keep on at you that 
he didn't want you in the licensing trade ? " 

" Yes, he did. But why " 

"You've got to have great strength of character to 
keep your head in the licensing trade — like he has 
himself. He thought you might be — you looked rather 
like it — one of tibe weak, poetical, easily-led people, 
you see." 

" Well, perhaps I am still." 

"Yes, but you didn't show the predisposition. 
When he found you hadn't got it, he didn't mind offer- 
ing you a glass now and then. Moderation's all 

" I still don't quite see." 

Uncle Stephen stopped by a lamp-post and gripped 
the lapel of my coat. 

"You don't see, because you don't know, old boy." 

"What don't I know?" 

" You don't know about — your mother." 

" What about my mother ? " 

" She was something like you and something like 
Laura. She used to be all over the shop, you know; 
you didn't know which way she was going to jump. 
Full of ginger, like a three-year-old; very fiery, 
touchy — a good woman, though, boy. She was a good 
woman, until she started — well, you know, your 
father dreaded that you might inherit her taste ^" 


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"What did she start?" 

" Drink, of course." 

"Do you mean to say that my mother drank, that 

she drank herself to ^" 

" It certainly hastened her end, old boy." 


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THERE comes an exact instance in htunan 
stress — whether of pain or pleasure — 
when things must either snap or recreate 
themselves. There came such an instant to me -one 
day when I was polishing a brass bedpan in the base- 
ment of the antique-and-curio shop which Jevons and 
I had started after the failure of our scene-painting 
venture. I trust you to suspect my capacity for suf- 
fering. At the same time I do not see why you should 
suffer with me. You, too . . . you doubtless have felt 
the unbearable wrack when there seems no escape, 
when even death offers no solution, when you are 
cabined between the narrow walls of your material 
existence, the flames of sentimental association eter- 
nally licking your heart and blood. The empty days, 
the empty nights, the bleak years stretching out before 
you; nothing but dreariness, hopelessness, and that 
ever-present gnawing vacancy. I do not want to tell 
you of my sufferings, because if you have not experi- 
enced them, believe me, you are born to them. They 
are our heritage, and I have nothing to offer you except 
my kindred understanding. I think it was only Made- 
line who kept me sane. Madeline, and a few surpris- 
ing people who forced me to weep by their unexpected 
quickness of sympathy. ... I remember Jingle com- 
ing, and the tears streamed down his battered face. 



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BJow could I tell Madeline that Mummy had left us 
and that we should never see her again? One day, 
in a state of despair, I drew for her a picture of us three 
all meeting again in some elaborate paradise. And I 
hated myself for doing it, for I did not believe it at 
all. I do not believe this aspect of human love to be 
a permanent factor in evolution. Everything changes. 
That which we call Shakespeare, or Lincoln, or Glad- 
stone must have gone on and by now be something en- 
tirely different. And it is well it should be so. I 
rejoice to think that Shakespeare as a man is quite 
extinct. It makes the universe seem less stuffy. I 
don^t want to be bunged up with my grandmother and 
my grandchildren. Let them, too, rejoice in this real- 
isation of the eternal flux. The brass bedpan glowed 
like silver under the influence of my rubbing. 

" Some snuffy old fool probably warmed his bed with 
this a century ago. Thank God he is dead ! Even the 
art of warming a bed with a brass pan has died out. 
No one will ever do it again. We hang it on our walls 
as a sentimental relic." 

This is my great enemy — sentimentality, going 
back. In the early months of the struggle I realised 
that I should have to be ruthless with this enemy, or 
he would kill me. When Jevons mooted the idea of tiie 
antique shop I helped him by stocking it with every 
scrap of antique furniture which Mary and I had col- 
lected. I asked him to sell it for whatever he could 
get for it while I was away, and I started out for Italy. 
When I had spent a week in Verona I realised that it 
was the worst thing I could have done. Italy was sim- 
ply Mary, and nothing but Mary. . . . We had 
planned so often to go there "later on." ... I re- 
turned suddenly. Jevons had not sold the furniture. 
I snapped down some shutter in my mind and helped 
him.- I even haggled with people over the price. I 


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polished brass as it had never been polished before. 
• • • looking back on it^ I am aware that my behaviour 
may seem to you cowardly, even disloyal. It possibly 
waa. I can only state just what I did. Please re- 
member that I was in a desperate comer, fighting this 
thing, and I wanted to come out whole, for Madeline's 

Father su^ested that I should go back and live at 
" The Duchess of Pless." Laura wanted us both to 
go and live with her. Both of these offers I rejected. 
They would have entailed a state of going back, and the 
essential thing was to go on, keep on doing things, 


Jevons was a delightful person, with whom I got on 
admirably. He was a thin, aesthetic, impatient, lan- 
tern-jawed young man, very gentle in his manners, 
but quick and sympathetic, with a profound knowledge 
of the antique, and a useful knowledge of values. 
However, he hated selling anything which he liked 
very much. He would hop around the little shop 
like a bird. (He had a club-foot.) Suddenly he 
would pull himself up, and gazing for a long time at a 
piece of majolica, with his head on one side, he would 
exclaim : 

" Oh, Tom . . . that's too beautiful. I know some 
swine will buy it." 

I had very little knowledge of the antique, and it is 
surprising that in spite of the rather temperamental 
way we conducted the business, it paid fairly well. I 
kept on the little house in St. John's Wood, only rear- 
ranging the rooms. Our bedroom was now Madeline's. 
The drawing-room was the dining-room, and vice versa. 
New furniture was placed where furniture had never 


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been before. I secured the services of an admirable 
wixnan^ named Mrs. Whittle, who acted as caretaker 
and looked after Madeline. Madeline was now twelve, 
a difficult age. She tortured me with her likeness to 
Mary, but she was too young to be a companion for 
any length of time. I loved to have her, and to talk 
to her, and to bring her presents, to feel her arms 
around my neck; then suddenly she would make me 
impatient. I had been spoilt, perhaps. With Made- 
line I had to give all the time, and I had become accus- 
tomed to receive so much. I never went down to Wood- 
stack. I simply could not do it. The evenings were 
the worst time, when Madeline had gone to bed. 
Sometimes I went back to the shop, or studied some book 
on pewter or glass. Whatever I did had to be hard, 
teclmical. I could not read fiction, or listen to music, 
or go to a play. The newspapers brought a lump in 
my throat I dare only think about practical affairs. 
Jevons said he thought I was a very good business man. 
I believe I must have been, at that time. I developed 
a fund of driving power. I studied carpentry and up- 
holstery, and did many of our own repairs and restora- 
tions. On the night I have mentioned I was alone in 
the basement Jevons had gone for the day. A 
November iog had filtered its way down the narrow 
staircase and hung in little drifts, revealed by the 
flare of the incandescent gas. All around the room 
were stray pieces of furniture, brass and crockery, 
some broken, some awaiting adjustment or polish. 
A mouse scuttled across the floor. I felt a quiet 
glow of satisfaction as I regarded my over-polished 

" Jevons will be pleased, to-morrow,*' I thought ; and 
then, " What an ass I am ! The fog will undo all my 
labours." And still I went on polishing. All sorts of 
thoughts jumbled through my mind. One was : 


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" Suffering is good for the soul." 

I had heard that often — quite a trite saying, but 
somehow very true. Was my soul — whatever it was 
— hardening, being made a finer thing by what I was 
enduring? Was I becoming a bigger man, a stronger 
personality? If it were so ... a sudden vision of 
infinite possibilities presented themselves. I felt a 
kind of pride. One digs down and finds powers. 
Suffering is a stimulus, a creator. Up to fifteen 
months ago I did not know what suffering was. My 
life had been a pleasant drift. If I could harden a 
little like this, why could I not do more? I did not 
mean to be . . . successful in Laura's sense^ but to 
be somehow successful in myself. To contribute some- 
thing to life, to leave something of myself behind. Men 
die, ideas go on. Everything changes. Laura, with 
her reclamej and her bouquets, and her expensive din- 
ners, had not grasped the true significance of change. 
Aided by Edgar, she was failing . . . failing all the 
time, in the glare of lighted halls and the plaudits of 
a mob. Suddenly in that little room I seemed to re- 
alise it alL Everything curves, and therefore changes. 
That which we take to be i|tatic is only a breathing- 
space in a moving episode. That which we take to 
be established is only the dust in a new cycle of vi- 
brations. Life is only a temporary arrangement; in- 
complete, indefinite. As I shape the change in me, 
do I become in touch with God? God is not power, 
or love, or beauty, but that which is always changing 
in me. Even in the short span of my life I am a 
hundred people, driven by hereditary taints and im- 
pulses, linked by sentient episodes, loosely wrapped in 
an amorphous and unreliable material called memory. 
Yesterday I was a small boy putting flies in a spider's 
web in my father's garden. To-morrow I may be 
Leonardo da Vinci planning the fortifications of Flor- 


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eDoe. I change because God changes. When I con- 
fine myself to material things I am obstructing the 
natural sweep of the curve. The eternal question kept 
raging round my heart : 

** Where is Mary at this instant!" 

But I mustn't think of it in this way. It doesn't 
happen like that I must dig about inside. My life 
is like the reflection of a star bobbing up and down on 
the dark waters of a trackless sea. These other parti- 
cles are reflections^ as I am. We meet and mingle and 
twinkle and ogle each other in our passage, and one 
after another we pass away. But somewhere away up 
there in the heavens is that real star which is ourselves, 
a thing incomprehensible and permanent and yet which 
is always changing. One must learn to be proud, so proud 
that one will not demand the thousand and one little 
appearances of stability. It is the stumbling-block of 
our faith — that we are always striving to establish 
permanent combinations. We want to found a race, a 
family, a religion or union, and to say, '^ This is it. 
This shall stand for all time. When the earth cracks 
up it shall survive in some superior and more inde- 
structible condition." We are cowards because we will 
not face the fact of change. There is no evidence of 
such a stagnation in the rulings of the Universe. Am 
I to believe in the formula of a religion, when one after 
another I have seen them come and go? Am I to be- 
lieve in the dominance of a people, when one after 
another I may read their story in the brief chronicles 
of a book? Am I indeed to believe in the complete 
" establishment of my own entity as a permanent record, 
when I observe the ambit of its little circle fringed with 
identical manifestations . . . bobbing up and down? 
That's just all it is. All my life is bobbing up and 
down. • • • 


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The room grew chilly, but I felt no desire to move. 
I believed that I was passing some important land- 
mark. Powerful resolutions were forming in me. It 
was imperative that I should focus this new aspect. 
The intense realisation of the simple fact that every- 
thing changes seemed to come to me in the light of a 
revelation. It put everything in its place. One must 
not expect too much of life, just what it gives and what 
one gives to it, and nothing else at all. One must be 
too proud to demand more. On the day of his death, 
they say that Confucius went into his garden and said: 

" The great monntam must crumble, 

The strong beam must break, 

And the wise man withers away like a plant.'' 

He threw no sops of " permanence ^^ to his disciples. 
All other religions seemed to be founded on an implica- 
tion that we were leading up to some perfect individual. 
What this perfect individual was to do when he arrived 
was not stated, but the hint was that everything would 
become static. The people we happened to be loving at 
that fateful moment would become our permanent pos- 
session. " The dead shall rise from their graves " — 
surely the most disgusting idea ever put forward ! If 
the dead rise from their graves, the unborn are cast 
into oblivion. Life reels backwards. The idea is 
worthy of a people who desire to tabulate and card-index 
every experience. They must see it in terms of a story 
with a prolc^e and an epilogue. It must afterwards 
be sat upon by the leading critic, and stowed away 
among the archives of the museum of mammals. But 
life is not like that. It is fluid. Christ and Buddha 
are no more permanent than Mr. Timble discoursing 


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on funerals in the saloon-bar of ^^ The Duchess of 

Therefore . . . how shall I live my life? In the 
first place; I have to be so proud that I can face the 
circumstance that Mary is gone from me for ever. Our 
love is blinding and consuming, but some change has 
occurred which we cannot control. She will always 
be vivid to me, but every year, owing to the fortuitous 
circumstance of her death and my life, she will become 
slightly less vivid. Thirteen years ago I did not know 
her. Thirteen years hence I shall not have forgotten 
her, but I have got to face the fact that her hold on me 
will be less vivid. Perhaps all human love is a fortui- 
tous circumstance. It was only by chance I met 
her. I might have met another woman and loved her 
equally well. But no, no — I could not believe that. 
But memory does fade. If memory survived eternally, 
then indeed there might be justification for a belief in 
hell. For this would predicate another static condi- 
tion. Memory, with its fugitive adjustments, is the 
merciful veil to the grim enactments of the first law. 
It hides the anguish in the human heart which is al- 
ways craving for perpetuity. 

There must, then, be something else • . . soma 
justification in our being, something greater than the 
love of man and woman, of father and child, of brother 
and sister. What was it that produced in me a sudden 
moment of serenity as I was polishing the brass bed- 
pan? I was working, truly, but work itself is not 
enough. Why was I working ? Only to serve my own 
ends. I had thought, " Jevons will be pleased.*^ I 
was helping Jevons. Perhaps there was something in 
that I was serving. Was the secret of it all — serv- 
ice^ I do not know, but I was oddly conscious that at 
that particular instant I experienced the only almost 
happy thrill I had known for fifteen months. I had 


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passed an invisible barrier. Esietenoe seemed po£h 

I took off my overall and fetched my hat and coat. 

It was past ten o'clock, and I was about to turn off 
the light, when I heard someone rap on the door of the 
shop above. 

" I expect it's the police," I thought, " to see if every- 
thing is all right" 

I left the light on, and went upstairs, where a dim 
gas-jet was burning. I opened the door. A woman in 
furs stumbled into my arms. 

" Lemme come in, old boy," she said. It was Laura 
— drank! 


I slipped the door to quietly, and put my arm round 

" I wanna sit down," she gurgled. 

"All right, old girl," I said. "Come downstairs. 
It's a little warmer." 

She hung heavily on my arm, and I had to save her 
from falling down the narrow staircase. I tucked her 
into a comfortable Chesterfield. 

" F'you gottanything to drink ? " she asked. 

I stroked her hands, and took off her hat, which was 
balanced at a ridiculous angle. 

" Laura," I whispered, " what's the trouble ? YouVe 
been drinking. I've nothing here but water. I could 
make you some tea." 

" Oh, hell to tea ! Gimme some water." 

" What is it ? " I said, fetching a glass and a pitcher. 

" I've left that swine," she said thickly. 

I cannot say that I was inordinately surprised. 
Troubles in the Beyfus family had been working to a 
head. Laura had threatened to do this several times 
since the night of the Burwell dinner, and it was in- 


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evitable that she would eventually do it abruptly like 
this. But it was deplorable that she should get drunL 

" D'you know what's happened now, Tom ? Blast 
him I how I hate that nxan ! " 

" Tell me." 

She began to say something; then she cried and I 
could not stop her. When she had had a thoroughly 
good cry, and drunk some more water, she seemed 
calmer. She held a handkerchief over her eyes, and 

"D'you know what he^s done? . . . Pm going to 
have a baby." 

The news startled me. They had been married six 
years. She b^an to talk rapidly and incoherently. 

" We always arranged we wouldn't No good to an 
artist like me — muck up my career, too. He says it 
was accident. ... I don't believe him. He ^" 

"But, Laura '' 

"Wass good of talking? You know everything, 
don't you? — married man — I can say anything to 
you, can't I? " 

"Yes. But, Laura . . . how awful. But now, as 
it's happened, why not ? " 

"I'm too old, old boy. Too old. . • . Besides, 
there's this American' tour in the spring. It's not 
only that — everything about him. He's cruel. He's 
a beast He does beastly things to me. No one could 
ever imagine. And I can't help myself. You don't 
know what I've been through. I don't want a child of 
his, though God knows ^" 

She cried again, and I soothed her forehead and 
stared at her helplessly. 

" You must come home with me, Laura, and we will 
think out the best thing to do." 

She clung to me. 

" Tom, old boy, I know Fm a rotter. I'm drunk. 


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I'm beastly drunk. You don't know it, but I've been 
drinking for years, ever since I married that . . . No, 
old boy, I daren't go home with you to-night. I'm not 
good enough. With that kid of yours in the house 
and everything. Lemme stay. Tommy. You've got 
some rugs and things, I bet Any old thing; juzza 
sleep it off. . . . I'm so tired, Tom. So damn sleepy." 

She snuggled into the Chesterfield. I fetched some 
curtains and any heavy material I could find. I piled 
them on her and tucked her in. 

" Poor old girl 1 '' I thought. " Poor old Laura ! " 

She was already in a heavy sleep, breathing noisily. 
What could I do ? I dare not stay the night with her. 
Mrs. Whittle would be alarmed. I had been in to 
dinner and told her I should be back about ten. 
Madeline might wake up and ask for me. The light 
would be burning in the hall. I put the tea-things 
and some biscuits on a chair near Laura, and left a note 
for her. I said I would be back at half-past eight in 
the morning. I turned out the gas. My last impres- 
sion as I did so was her black hair scattered in pro- 
fusion over a piece of Italian damask, and just in the 
background the bedpan upon which I had lavished so 
much energy, gleaming like a watchful moon. 

Poor Laura ! I locked up the shop, and made my 
way out into the f eg. 

Our shop was in Paddington Street, and it was 
barely fif tefen minutes' walk to Plane Tree Road in the 
ordinary way, but somewhere in the Edgware Eoad I 
lost my way. The streets were nearly deserted. 
Eventually I groped along a wall and arrived at Lord's 
Cricket-ground. It was half-past eleven before I found 
my house. The light was flickering dimly in the 


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hall. I opened the door and saw the fog rush past me. 
How cheerless and deserted the little house had become ! 
I heard someone moving in the drawing-room. My 
nerves, unstrung by the events of the evening, presaged 
burglars. I shook with cold physical fear. But — 
Madeline was sleeping in the room above. I gripped 
my stick. A man came out into the halL It was 

His throat was muffled up in a white scarf which em- 
phasised the pallor of his cheeks. His eyes looked wild 
and slightly bloodshot. He bore down upon me. 

"Where is Laura?" he demanded. "She has left 
me. She would come to you, I know. Where is she ? " 

A sudden detestation of this man came over me. I 
had not observed before how close together his eyes were. 
His face was dirty with the fog. Without die smug 
contentment of material comforts, and the grooming of 
the cultivated citizen to mark it, it appeared a weak 
and horrible mask. Here was I, broken in grief, half 
a mile away Laura, drunk to insensibility through his 
swinish behaviour, and all he was thinking of was — 
himself. I felt it He had come to demand his rights, 
his bond-woman. I flashed out: 

" What the devil business is it of yours ? " 

Across his face there crept a look of cunning and 
amazement. I had shown him that I knew where 
Laura was. At the same time he was surprised at the 
ferocity of this negligible brother, who had always been 
so tame and friendly. He shifted his ground a little. 

" I'm sorry to trouble you, Tom. I'm very worried. 
We had a little difference this evening. She swung out 
of the flat and said she was never coming back. Natu- 
rally I thought she would be here. If not, where would 
she be — on such a night ? " 

" I know nothing about her," I replied stoutly. He 
looked at me, and I know he wanted to say that I was 


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lying. If he had, I should have struck him, and I 
think he knew that. He sighed and muttered : 

" It's very distressing." 

" For you, or for her 1 " 

" For both of us, Tom." 

*' I can't help you. If Laura chooses to leave you, 
it's her affair. There must be some reason." 

Suddenly he shouted : 

" If that man Freitel is in this " 

"Hush!" I said. "This is my house. You may 
wake up my child." 

And I opened the door for him. As he hovered on 
the step, I added: 

" If Laura chooses to come and stay with me, you 
must please understand that this house for you is — 
out of bounds." 

He gave me a quick look, and snapped : 

" What has she been telling you ? " 

"Nothing which reflects any credit upon either of 
you," I answered enigmatically. 

He glared at me, and the fcg swallowed him up. 

"I donH mind him suspecting Freitel,'* I thought. 
" But this other business . . ." 


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AT half-past eight the next morning I found 
Laura drinking tea. She appeared compara- 
L tively fresh and cheerful. She rallied me 
about our somewhat limited washing arrangements, 
and said that the towel was a disgrace to both of us. 

" I'm awfully sorry I was such a beast last night, 
Tom/' she said. 

She appeared to be very anxious to please me, and 
she began examining all our stuffs and furniture. But 
I could tell there was something at the back of her 
mind she wanted to have settled. She suddenly re- 
marked quite casually: 

" I can't remember what I told you last night, Tom. 
Did I explain " 

" You said you had had a quarrel with Edgar, and 
you weren't going back." 

" Yes, yes, that's it. We are always quarrelling, you 
know. He appears so calm, but he's got a beast of a 
temper. And — well, there's no getting away from it, 
he — to put it crudely — exploits me. I told you that, 
didn't I?" 


" I didn't Did I say anything else ? " 

I began to put on my overall. 

"Oh, you didn't say much. You were awfully 
squiffy, old girl . . . rather incoherent.'^ 


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She seemed relieved. I somehow could not hring 
myself to remind her of what she had said. 

" Can I come and stay with you as a p.g. ? Fortu- 
nately I've got some money in the bank. I always kept 
my own account going. It's the only clever thing Fve 

"Of course you can come. You mustn't talk rot 
about p.g.-ing." 

" I don't know what vnll happen about my engage- 
ments. He's my agent, you see. He'll muck every- 
thing up if I desert him." 

"You'll have to chance that. You are still deter- 
mined not to go back ? " 

" Worse than ever." 

"Well, we must buckle to, and think of the best 
thing to do." 

Laura was masterful. At ten o'clock she called at 
another agents' called Pealls, and got them to promise 
to do what they could for her. Then she telephoned to 
Lydia, the parlourmaid at the flat. Lydia said that 
Mr. Beyfus had instructed her not to send away, or 
allow to be taken, any of her mistress's frocks or prop- 
erty. This was easily settled. Laura took over Lydia, 
too. Lydia adored her. At three o'clock in the after- 
noon, when Edgar was away at the office, a small van 
arrived, and took away all Laura's property, including 
frocks and jewellery, and even some of the furniture 
which Laura said was hers; as well as the faithful 
Lydia. The whole contents were deposited in my house 
in St John's Wood. Madeline was thrilled with de- 
light at this advent. 

"Oh, Auntie Laura, how scrumptious! You must 
stay for ever, and ever, and ever." 

The house underwent a further transformation. 
Laura's furniture adorned the most conspicuous places. 
Madeline insisted on giving up " the " bedroom to her. 


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The drawing-room became her musio-room. Ljdia 
shared a room with Mrs. Whittle. We were all rather 
congested. I expected another visit from Edgar, but 
he did not come. He wrote a formal letter to Laura, 
apparently under legal advice, and requested her to re- 
turn to him. She replied, also under advice, and said 
she could not see her way to accede to his request For 
a few weeks the little house" almost assumed an air of 
gaiety. Madeline and Laura were both gifted with that 
quick instinct of recovery which characterises youth 
and genius. Madeline was in higher spirits than she 
had been for a very long time. Laura and I both 
assumed an attitude of blustering joviality when we 
met. We talked crisply above the surface of things. 
We each had tragedies incommunicable to the other. 
We were sorry for each other, but less intimate than in 
the old days. Laura was right about her "agent." 
Fealls informed her that the engagements secured for 
her by Mr. Beyfus had not been confirmed. They could 
get no satisfactory statement from him. Loeb she could 
not go ta She had lost the kind of name that Loeb 
handled. Between the two stools of the older societies 
— the more serious musical ventures, represented by 
Loeb, and the lighter, more popular undertakings of 
Beyfus — her career seemed in danger of collapsing. 
To my surprise she did not seem unduly distressed. 
She was content with her freedom. She went for walks 
with Madeline, and took her to matinees, played little 
pieces to her, and discovered that she had musical 


This reasonably-contented existence endured for 
nearly three months, and then one evening when I ar- 
rived home I found Madeline in tears. 


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" What is the matter, darling ? " I said, pressing 
her to me. 

" Auntie Laura won't teach me any more. I think 
she is angry with me. Oo-oh ! " 

Laura was out. She did not return till late, looking 
pale and exhausted. When she had rested a little, I 

" Madeline says you won't teach her any more." 

She looked at me, and then turned away. She did 
not speak for some time. At last she exclaimed in a 
bitter voice : 

"Oh, Tom, don't let the child get fond of music. 
It's hell." 

I knew it would be no good arguing with her. I 
poked the fire, and thought the matter over. Then I 

" Is anything wrong, old girl ? You seem down." 

I could not get her to reply. She was inwardly 
choking. I pressed her hands in mine, and said : 

"It's a rotten old world, Laura, but we've got to 
make the best of it. I'm trying to." 

Suddenly Laura kissed me. 

"I know. I know. You're an awful brick, Tom. 
I think it's fine the way you've faced this thing. I 
never thought you had the strength — but it's some- 
how different with me. I suppose I haven't the stuff 
to fall back on. I'm miserably weak, Tom. And now, 
I'm ^" 

" What are you going to do, Laura ? " 

"I'm going away for a time — some months, per- 
haps. You're not to worry about me. I shall — be 
9n right." 

" You're going away to play ? " 


I could not ask her where. . . . The fire crackled in 


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the heartL A fine rain was beating against the win- 

"You won't do anything — foolish, will you, 

She replied with an almost inaudible "No." A 
sudden wave of fear swept over me. I felt myself in 
the presence of some disturbing menace. I wanted to 
act, but my limbs were cold. I paced the room, and 
lighted a cigarette, hoping to relieve the nervous ten- 
sion. Then, steadying myself by the mantelshelf, I 

" Laura, that night when you turned up at the shop 
in Paddington Street . . . drunk . . . you told me 
something. I knew afterwards you would be ashamed. 
... It's no good pretending I don't know. . . . Prom- 
ise me you won't be a fool . . ." 

Laura jumped up, and her eyes flashed angrily. 

" Oh, you . . . it's all right for you, you men. . . . 
What business is it of yours? . . ." 

" But, Laura, I only want to help " 

" Oh, don't ! Don't talk to me." 

She flashed across the room and disappeared. 


A few days later Laura left us, and she would not 
say where she was going. It was springtime, the most 
trying time of the year. I felt it more than Madeline, 
who was always being absorbed by some new and con- 
suming interest. She made friends very easily and was 
popular with the other girls in the school. I just went 
on doing things, trying to keep the shutter of my mind 
snapped-to against the vivid light of emotion. One 
day Jevons came to me in a great state of excitement. 

" You are a perfectly priceless old josser 1 " he said. 

I could not make out what it was all about for some 


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time. He kept on darting backwards and forwards 
from the shop to a room at the back, where we kept our 
superfluous stuff. 

" What made you buy all that old junk at the Bau- 
ghan sale ? '' he asked at last 

I had been down to a sale in Sussex a few days pre- 
viously. They were selling up the effects of an old re- 
cluse who had recently died and who had, apparently, 
left no relatives. 

" Do you mean the pictures or the pots ? " 

" The pots are all right, of course, but — the pic- 
tures ! There are seventeen of them — the most mixed 
crowd Tve ever seen." 

" I know. But they were sold as a lot. I rather 
liked those two old prints of Lewes, and I thought some 
of the others might be worth something. I know noth- 
ing about pictures, as you know. I paid twenty-seven 
pounds ten for the lot." 

" Good Lord ! * Out of the mouths of babes and 

sucklings ' " Jevons went back into the other 

room. A customer entered. A dear old lady, who ad- 
mired everything enormously, talked for twenty min- 
utes, borrowed a piece of string, said she would consult 
her husband, and then departed. When she had gone, 
Jevons once more hopped back into the shop. 

" Tom Purbeck," he said, " I believe you're the 
greatest genius of the age. Tou are the coming 

"Of course I am," I replied. "What about it?" 

" Come with me." 

We both went back to the inner room. Jevons had 
spread the pictures all over the place. One fairly large 
oil-painting was balanced on a chair. Jevons swept his 
arm round in a circle and said : 

" This lot are worth f ourpence. But just examine 
this oil on the chair." 


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It was a dexterously-painted landscape, with cottages 
and figures, and a mass of cold green foliage. 

'^ I don't much like the damn thing/' I said. 

" Perhaps you don't, you silly old gump ; but that's 
not the point. Look at this signature in the corner.'' 

I examined it carefully, and deciphered the letters 

" Well, who is he ? " I said. " I've never heard of 

Jevons shouted with laughter. 

" You are undoubtedly destined to end your days in 
Bond Street and Park Lane I If this is a genuine 
Ruysdael, and I have every reason to believe it is — 
well, our shares will go up." 

Ruysdael? Ruysdael? Oh, yes, of course. I re- 
membered Ruysdael in the National Gallery. I never 
liked him very much. The name had slipped my 

" I expect it's a bally old fake," I said, feeling rather 
ashamed of my stupidity. 

" * Fools rush in where angek fear to tread.' You 
leave the dealing of this to me." 

I will not ask you to follow the immediate machina- 
tions of Mr. Jevons. Odd, mysterious people called 
and examined the picture. It was not even framed, 
but Jevons soon remedied that. Negotiations went on 
for six weeks. Someone was introduced to someone 
else. Handsome commissions were offered all round. 
At length a wizened old gentleman with snow-white 
hair drove up in a large car. He looked ill and worried 
and rather shabby. He asked petulantly to see the 
Ruysdael. He never gave a glance at us or at any- 
thing else in the place. He produced a horn-rimmed 
microscope. He went all over the picture, muttering: 

"Ah! um — um — yes — um — um." 

Then he drove away. 


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"That was old Bleatley, the millionaire and soap 
king/' said Jevons, when he had gone. " He has the 
finest collection of Buysdaels in the country. In the 
course of time we shall hear whether he has bought it. 
He always buys through Roder." 

Three days later we heard that the picture was sold. 
I do not to this day know how much old Mr. Bleatley 
paid for it, but our share amounted to three thousand 
two hundred pounds ! It seemed more wonderful than 
the victory of " Baionnette." 


It would be idle for me to claim any credit for the 
surprising run of luck which favoured the house of 
Jevons & Purbeck from that day. Neither do I think 
that Jevons himself would wish to boast of his part. 
To me there was something ironic in this twist of for- 
tune. After all the years when we had been so in- 
differently off . . . My mind was being constantly 
bombarded by these disturbing reflections. ... "If 
this had happened before ! — I could have done so-and- 
so, and so-and-so." 

I just hardened myself, and went on. I accepted the 
good fortune without regret and without elation. 
Jevons was always quicker at the uptake than I. It 
was he who insisted on extending our premisies. And it 
was he who eventually introduced a kind of fairy-god- 
mother into our little premises. She was an elderly, 
kind-faced person called Lady Stourport. Her hus- 
band was Sir Andrew Stourport, a big man in the Glas- 
gow shipping world. To Lady Stourport money 
seemed to be of no consequence at all. I think she 
liked us. Apart from liking us, we seemed to amuse 
her. She had apparently never seen anything quite so 
queer as ns in the part of the world she came from. 


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If she liked anything, she just bought it without asking 
the price. It was a cruel thing to do. It left Jevons 
and me arguing by the hour, after she had gone, as to 
how much we could decently demand. I suppose I 
inherited something of my father's instinct for the 
" fair price." Jevons was in favour of charging fancy 
sums. So we usually ended by a compromise of a fair 
price plus about fifty per cent. 

One day she came in, and after making one or two 
purchases, she said : 

" Now, Mr. Jevons, I have just bought an old house 
at Richmond that wants entirely renovating and re- 
decorating. Do you do that kind of work ? " 

"Why, certainly we do, madam," promptly replied 
Jevons. I gasped. Jevons must be going off his nut ! 
She gave him the address and a card to the agents. 

" Whatever are you up to ? " I said when she had gone. 
"We know nothing about decorating and renovating." 

" My dear old mugwumps, it's as easy as falling off 
a tree. We only have to go to several builders and get 
estimates. We can sub-let the whole bally thing. A 
lot of these swanky firms do that. They don't do a 
stroke themselves." 

I was astonished to find that Jevons was quite right. 
Lady Stourport's house at Richmond was a stately 
Georgian building in the precincts of the Park. It had 
not been occupied for ten years. We reconstructed sev- 
eral rooms, put in staircases, installed a new system of 
lighting and heating, papered and painted and panelled. 
We even launched out into landscape gardening, and 
introduced fauns and females in marble. When it was 
finished we began to fill it with antique furniture and 
old masters. If we had been quite unscrupulous we 
could have made a fortune out of Lady Stourport. On 
the other hand, she might not have come to us. She 
was by no means a fooL She thought we were two 

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queer young men. She probably knew she was paying 
more than necessary, but it did not matter very much 
to her, and she had no great opinion of her own taste. 
We took all the worry and responsibility off her shoul- 
ders. I must say that, having once taken the plunge, 
I took a delight in trying to make Belhampton House 
as attractive as possible. I visited other old houses 
of the same period and made innumerable notes and 
sketches. I went to South Kensington Museimi and 
looked up every book on the subject. I spent days in 
the builder's office, planning with him the best arrange- 
ments, and examining samples and patterns. My ex- 
perience in the scene-painting profession was not en- 
tirely wasted. When the work began I haunted the 
place. I made the foreman explain to me every little 
operation. I worried the poor man's life out. I dis- 
covered imperfections, and ordered them to be done 
again. I did not know very much about it, but I did 
the very best I could. Jevons left me to grapple with 
all these technicalities, whilst he instinctively looked 
after the business side. I was happier than I had been 
for a long time, not because we were making money, 
but because I suddenly found a chance of serving a 

Sometimes the thought occurred to me: 
" Is there any real satisfaction in doing this — just 
helping a rich and possibly selfish old woman ? " 

A few moments' reflection told me that there was. 
It was not as though she wanted something showy and 
vulgar. She wanted the best. I was helping to shape 
something — make something more beautiful. I had 
never been attracted by the unsolvable problems of 
social reform. Doubtless many people would say that 
in my mood at that time I should have been better 
advised to have worked among the poor, to have defi- 
nitely pledged myself as a champion of moral rights. 


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That the only real satisfaction is a complete negation 
of self, I should have lived entirely for others.. 

I can only say that I am not made that way. The 
world appears to me more in need of fining down than 
of bolstering up. I would always rather subscribe to a 
spiritual idea than to a material advancement. At that 
time I was convinced that it was far more important 
for the cornice in Lady Stourport's drawing-room to be 
the exact proportion than that some unfortunate crea- 
ture should be prevented from drinking too much beer 
or not eating enough bread. If the cornice was exactly 
right it would be observed by thousands of people in 
the course of time. The majority of them wouldn't 
stop to think about it, but it would gradually impress 
itself on their mind. They would get to feel that that 
was the right and true proportion, and they would 
notice when other cornices were not. In time a wrong 
proportion would offend them. I was contributing 
towards the evolution of a finer thrust of humanity — 
towards a better appreciation of beauty, towards an 
idea. On the other hand, if I gave bread to a starving 
man, he would be hungry again to-morrow, or, expecting 
my presence, he would make no attempt to get bread 
for himself. I was not helping his ideas at all. In- 
deed, I was rather contaminating them. If I arrested 
the hand of the drunkard as he raised his glass to his 
lips, and said, "Hold, my good fellow! Don't you 
know that that is the way to damnation ? " he would 
probably answer: 

"Right, old sport! Have one with me.*' 
And, being of a friendly disposition I should prob- 
ably fall in with his request, and we would make a 
merry evening of it. I don't say that I am right about 


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these things. I only repeat that I am made that way. 
I honour the people who think just the opposite. 

I heard nothing from Laura all the summer, and her 
name did not appear in any musical announcements. 
At the beginning of September, however, I had a letter 
from her — a most unusual attention. It ran : 

" Deab old Tom, 

" I have been most frightfully ill. I am now all 
right again. I am leaving for the Pyrenees with Lucie 
van Stael to-morrow. I expect to be away two months, 
to recuperate. Heaps of love to you both. I am send- 
ing Madeline a large parcel by this post. I shall come 
and see you directly I get back. 

" Your loving old fool of a sister, 


She had been a fool, then! There was no address, 
but the envelope was stamped ^^ Buxton." I had never 
heard of Lucie van Stael. 

It fell out rather fortunately that Madeline had made 
great friends with two little girls in the neighbourhood. 
Their mother was a charming Canadian woman named 
Mrs. Maguire, and she invited Madeline to go ajid stay 
with them at their cottage at Lulworth Cove for the 
summer holidays. I was delighted for her to go. I 
went down there myself for several week-ends, which I 
conducted in a businesslike way. I always took some 
work with me, and when not working I was bathing with 
the children, or learning to manipulate a sailing-boat, 
or discussing the question of education with Mrs. 

One morning I discovered two streaks of grey hair 
on either side of my temple. 

" You're beginning to fade, old man," I thought to 
myself; and the reflection produced in me no sense of 


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I LOOKED out of the window into the little garden. 
Yellow and violet crocuses were forcing their way 
through the earth. For March the day was warm 
and sunny. Madeline was very busy. For a time I 
, could not determine what she was doing. She had a 
spade and a trowel and a ball of string. Then I 
realised that she was planning a bed of standard roses. 
Her movements were vigorous and concentrated. There 
was something about the poise of her young body which 
gave me a sudden feeling of surprise. Madeline was 
growing up. She was no longer " just a kid." In a 
few years she would be a woman, with all a woman's 
potentialities and troubles. A disturbed sense of mis- 
giving crept over me. Was I giving her all of myself 
that I could ? Must not her life be rather cramped and 
drab ? I wanted to go out into the garden and throw 
my arms round her and kiss her. But I had schooled 
myself to give way to these impulses as little as pos- 
sible. I was somewhat restive concerning the emotions 
in those days. Was I becoming too hard and set ? . . . 
a solemn, dull, middle-aged father? The birds were 
already active in the branches. The old cycle of this 
age of re-birth had come round again. I opened the 
window and called out: 
She looked up at me with one of her quick smiles of 



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greeting. Her eyes were very alive; tiny lights seemed 
to sparkle in their blue-grey depths. Her face was 
square rather than oval, the eyes wide apart Light- 
brown hair tumbled in little curves and sweeps around 
her cheeks, that glowed with exercise. Her features 
appeared small in detail but broad in effect. She was 
lightly built but with the poise of an athlete rather than 
a student. Her mother must have looked exactly like 
that in the days before I knew her. 

" What do you say to a day in the country ? " I said. 

" Oh, ripping 1 I won't be a minute. I'll have to 
wash. My hands are filthy." 

" You must buck up. There's only one train that's 
any good, and that goes in forty minutes." 

" Right you are, daddy ! " 

I believe she was very surprised at my sudden invi- 
tation, but she gave no evidence of it. Going down in 
the train she told me the details of two rival systems 
of education, one — the proper one, of course — being 
instituted by her beloved Miss Delarme at her own 
school, the other by a " simply frantic old lunatic " 
at a rival school at Hampstead. It was aU rather 
complicated, and I'm afraid I did not follow it very 
closely. I was looking at Madeline, her animated face 
beneath the scarlet tam-o'-shanter, her plaid skirt, 
brown gaiters and walking-stick, and I was thinking 
to myself: 

" It won't do. It won't do at all — to shut every- 
thing out." 

Madeline was not at all of a sentimental disposition. 
She seemed to adjudge my outlook exactly, and to adapt 
herself to it. We were a very sensible couple. I 
found, moreover, that at this school of Miss Delarme's, 
where she was being co-educated, an entirely novel atti- 
tude towards life was presented. That is to say, it was 
novel as far as I was concerned, but not novel to 


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Madeline. She accepted it as a matter of course. It 
was all very, very diflFerent from the grammar-school 
in Camden Town which Laura and I had attended. 
These children — Madeline and her friends — seemed 
somehow freer and more independent in thought and 
action. Hero-worship apparently had died out. Noth- 
ing cast a spell over them. At times this attitude 
shocked me. You felt as though you could not impress 
them. When Laura and I were at school someone had 
only to mention Pitt, or Gordon, or Milton to put a 
class into a kind of trance. But now they wanted to 
know exactly all about these people, and what they did, 
and why, and whether it couldn't have been done better. 
They quentioned, and criticised, and modified, and qual- 
ified. In eflFect, they were more concerned with ideas 
than with individuals. Pitt was not a god, he was just 
a competent politician, with many weaknesses, and who 
made many blunders. What was Gordon doing in 
Egypt, anyway? ^^Yes, I like the opening part of 
* Paradise Lost,* but a lot of it is very dull.*' 


What arc you to do with children like that ? When 
I first came up against it, I confess it made me angry. 
But after a time I realised that the eflFect it had on 
Madeline was on the whole wonderfully beneficial. If 
she had been a hero-worshipper like myself, she would 
never have been able to withstand this great blow which 
had come upon us with such fortitude. The blow struck 
her as heavily as it did me, but after the first stunning 
effect she immediately began to think rather than to 
feel. And when the truth of this dawned upon me, I 
knew that I was witnessing a definite human advance. 
In my time we were encouraged to treat such a 
catastrophe as a lifelong companion. We were encour- 


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aged to sustain it with every mark of recognition and 
perpetual endurance. Madeline was as unselfish a child 
as any I have known, as quick in her sympathies, as 
loving, but after the first few months she made no 
display at all of the grief which consumed her. She 
thought furiously. I do not know what conclusions 
she came to. After my rather futile attempt to portray 
for her benefit a vision of St. John's Wood being per- 
petuated in heaven, we did not discuss religion. We 
were a little shy of each other. It took me a long time 
to realise that I was learning more from her than she 
was from me. Wordsworth has put this very clearly, 
but there are remarkably few of us who accept it. 
Everything that is of any value we learn from children. 
They present us with the produce of our own experience. 

On that Sunday I had a wonderful day with Mad- 
eline, and we said nothing at all. That is to 9ay, we 
said nothing that mattered. She chatted the whole 
time, and I invented some fantastic stories for the fun 
of watching her eyes light up. We tramped over the 
hill beyond Wendover, and sat on a fallen log, and ate 
our sandwiches. The great panorama of the Vale of 
Aylesbury lay before it, and we discussed its topog- 
raphy, and argued as to the pace of a tiny train puffing 
miles away below us. We were remarkably " sensible." 
We even discussed the site for a house I was to build 
the following year, its plan, and necessary accommoda- 
tion, and garden. 

" I don't think I'd like to live in the country all the 
year," said Madeline. " I like people.*' 

Very well ; then we would have a week-end cottage, 
and a motor-car, and still keep on the house in St. 
John's Wood; or perhaps have a flat nearer in town. 
I, too, like people. 

" Are you going to make a lot of money, daddy ? " 

" Heaps and heaps." 


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"Oh, how fine! WeU, Td like to '' 

" What would you like to do, Midge ? " 

"I'd like to have a good time, of ooursa But 
there's lots of things " 

"What sort of things?" 

" Oh, I don't know. I'd like to spend it aU, not just 
on that, but on — well, you know, science, and helping 
people to find out things. Wouldn't you ? " 

" Of coursa That would be fine. Woidd you like 
to help poor people ? " 

" Yes . . • but I think if you can help people to find 
out things, perhaps there needn't be any poor." 

"No, perhaps not. We must think about that a 

"Elspeth and Dolly Maguire are going back to 
Canada next year. They wanted me to go and stay 
with them. Do you think I could, daddy ? " 

"Go to Canada and leave . . . Why, yes; why 
shouldn't you?" 

" I would love to travel heaps. I'd like to see Amer- 
ica, and India, and China, and Japan. I'd like to go 
to those islands in the South Pacific — you know, 
Samoa, the Cook Islands, Solomon Islands." 

" What makes you think of them ? " 

"We've been having them at school. And there's 
Robert Louis Stevenson who writes scrumptiously about 

" Do you have him too? " 

" Of course. Have you read * Treasure Island ' ? " 

Good Lord! How ignorant I ami I glance at 
Madeline's face, all glowing with the walk. She is 
fourteen. Talking geography, Robert Louis Stevenson, 
helping people to find out things. What were Laura 
and I taught at fourteen? What ages ago I I could 
not remember. I squeezed her arm. 

" You want to be a pirate, I can see." 


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" Only for ^ tima Not a permanent pirate. Just 
long enough to see what it's like, and then come back 
where all the people are that you — that understand 
you, and then tell them all about it'' 

" Write it up, you mean ? " 

" Yes, or paint it." 

" That would be a good idea.'' 

" It doesn't matter what you do so long as you give 
it away." 

I was about to say, " What do you mean, my child ? " 
and then I saw. I blushed in a kind of confusion. I 
seemed to see in that instant why I had never been an 
artist, why Laura had never been quite an artist, why 
Kadic had been one, and why Madeline might be. It is 
to be moved by something so profound that your only 
idea is to give it out of yourself. 

"I take off my hat to Miss Delarme," I thought. 
^' My education is just beginning." 


We arrived home in time for a very late tea in which 
boiled eggs played a conspicuous part Madeline was 
ravenous. After tea the Maguires paid us a visit, and 
we played a game called " Uncle's in it ! " a game 
played with towels and cushions, of which I have now 
forgotten the rules. It seemed to have been specially 
designed to make me look a silly old fool, but the chil- 
dren enjoyed it immensely, and Mrs. Maguire said she 
had no idea I could be such a comedian. About seven 
o'clock Mrs. Whittle came in and announced that a 
lady bad called to see me, and said she would rather 
not give a name. I went out into the hall. In the dim 
light I observed a middle-aged, actressy-looking woman, 
rather floridly over-dressed* She smiled and held out 
her hand: 


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"Mr. Tom Purbeck?'' 

I shook hands automatically^ and murmured: 

" I'm afraid I — er — haven't the " 

" My name is Lucie van Stael." 

" Oh I . . . Oh, yes, a friend of Laura's. Will you 
come into the study ? " 

She laughed familiarly, and looked round the room. 

" What a ducky little house! I've heard all about 
you, and Madeline, of course. Laura is always talking 
about you. Sweet ! Perfectly sweet ! Where did you 
get that dear little escritoire ? " 

" As a matter of fact, it belongs to Laura. Won't 
you sit down ? " 

" Oh, thank you so much. I must really apologise 
for calling like this. The dear child was so anxious. 
It was her last injunction : ' Now mini you go and see 
Tom at once. ' " 

" I haven't seen Laura for over a year." 

" Isn't it dreadful how time flies ! My poor husband 
used to say — he was an American, you know ; he died 
at the age of thirty-seven, after making a fortune in 
twelve years — he used to say — now, let me see : what 
was it? — Ah, yes! You can make money but you 
can't make time. Ha, ha, ha ! " 

I felt that I disliked this woman intensely. I broke 
in with: 

" Have you any message for me from Laura ? " 

" She has been so harassed, so tried, poor child, it is 
quite difficult for me to take up the threads. I am not 
sure Ik»w far tlie position had developed when she last 
wrote to you. She was emphatic on the point that an 
interview is so much better than laboured correspond- 
ence. Don't you agree with me? One may so easily 
misunderstand in a letter, but in talking you can clear 
up every point There is, of course, the difiBculty of 
your f aUier." 


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" I^m afraid I donH quite follow. What is the diffi- 
culty about my father ? '^ 

" From a distance it is so difficult to judge. One is 
apt to make harsh distinctions ... if one doesn't 
foresee all the eventualities. You see, the marquis 
comes of one of the best families. But he is so much 
more than that. He is a hon enfant, serious, an in- 
tellectual indeed. There is no case of ^' 

" Excuse me, what marquis do you refer to ? '^ 

" Why, the Marquis de Thor Bohunville, of course. 
It is all quite convendble. It is only the preliminaries 
that are a little difficult of arrangement. You see, it 
is necessary to take the decisive step in order to secure 
freedom. The dear child is so convinced that you will 
entirely appreciate her position. But I think that she 
worries a little about the opinion of the father. If it 
should appear in the newspapers first ! . . . You know 
what they are — scurrilous! And then, a title. 
There is almost sure to be ^^ 

" But what do you mean? Is Laura going to marry 
this marquis ? " 

" When she has secured her freedom. That is why 
she thought that an interview would be more satisfying 
to you than — anything else. One can so easily mis- 
judge. The elegant suite of apartments which — they 
occupy at St. Jean de Luz, and you, as an artist, I 
assure you ^^ 

I jumped up. 

" Do you mean to say,'^ I exclaimed, " that Laura ijs 
already . . . that she is living with this ^^ 

'^ A most admirable and distinguished inan, destined 
for the Academic. Nothing, I assure you, the least 
intriguant. You will appreciate the fact that these are 
mere formalities. The law demands such." 

I glanced at this woman as though I held her re- 
sponsible, as so, indeed, to a certain extent, she was. 


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** How do you know that Beyfus will divorce her? *' 
I demanded. 

" It almost goes without saying. He will b6 given 
every encouragement and assistance. To be happy it is 
necessary sometimes to take risks, to act contrary to 
one's principles. But the poor child is distressed that 
you should think — uncharitably of her, not completely 
understanding all the circumstances, not appreciating 
how admirable and well-intentioned is the other parti, 
quite removed from what one might expect. She is 
anxious that you should do your best ... to make the 
information as acceptable to your father as . . . In- 
deed, the child loves you both very dearly and she 
would not cause you unnecessary distress. She 
wept " 

Damn Laura! Why must she always do these 


On the very day when life appeared to be holding out 
to me some semblance of gladness, when I detected 
within myself the slow dawning of reviving hopes, when 
I began to see through the eyes of Madeline, and realise 
that here was something " worth while " — this frowsy, 
foreign blockhead comes butting in with this corroding 
counterblast from Laura, announcing what amounts to 
be an acknowledgment that she has been seduced by a 
French marquis, who is keeping her in an "elegant 
apartment " at St. Jean de Luz ! And, forsooth, I am 
to go and break it to my father ! I am to go to " The 
Duchess of Pless " and convince him that it is all quite 
all right That the marquis is " well-intentioned " and 
" distinguished," That what they have done is a mere 
formality. He means to marry the girl. Madame la 
Marquise de Thor Bohunville! Of course. Admir- 


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Probably a drunken old roue, who will throw her in 
the gutter at the first opportunity. 

" How old is this man ? " I snapped. 

^'Monsieur le marquis i . . . Quite yoting; indeed, 
a little younger than Laura." 

Very well, then; probably a young rcme and cafe- 
lounger ; an adventurer. Just as bad. 

"Ah! I wish I could impress you: I see you are 
sceptical. Mister Tom. I assure you he is in every way 
bon enfant. He is quiet, reserved, studious, good- 
tempered, charming. And he adores her. . . . My 
God, how he adores her ! " 

I don't know what made me, but I got up and 
laughed bitterly. She looked at me without malice. 
Indeed, she smiled coyly and also rose. 

" Dear Mister Tom, you must not take this too much 
to heart. I promise you there will be no cause for 
regrets. I can almost call you brother Tom. Do let 
me see dear Madeline before I go." 

I felt a keen antipathy to the idea of this woman 
meeting Madeline. Madeline belonged to me. I 
would not have her even run the risk of being examined 
by this creature of ill-omen, who seemed to carry in her 
person the essence of cabarets and casinos and the ante- 
chambers of decadent aristocrats. I answered off- 

" Oh, Madeline has gone to bed. She's not very 
well. She's very tired." 

It might have been a satisfactory explanation if the 
door had not at that moment opened with a bang, and 
a face glowing with animation had not been thrust into 
the room. 

"Daddy! Oh! . . . Pm sorry." * 

She was about to withdraw, when my surprising vis- 
itor threw out her arms and exclaimed : 

"Madeline! Madeline! Oh, isn'jb she sweet! 


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Dear child, let me look at you. I am a very old friend 
of your Auntie Laura's/' 

Madeline found herself effusively embraced. Her 
face was a study. At the mention of Auntie Laura 
it lighted up with interest It was bewildered by the 
embrace, but straining to be gracious. It wanted to be 
polite, but plainly showed it didn't approve of the 
visitor. At the same time it was determined ta hear 
about Auntie Laura. 

" Where is she ? Is she coming ? " 

" Not yet, my dear. Mercy, what a pretty girl you 
are I What lovely hair ! " 

*' Where is Aunt Laura ? " 

" She is in France, my darling.'' 

*' Is she playing?" 

" Not just now, dear." 

"Why not?" 

This was a drastic method of cross-examination.' I 
dreaded what might be said. So I interrupted with: 

" She's been having a long holiday — travelling 
about, and staying with friends, dear." 

Madeline looked dubious, but she held out her hand 
and said primly: 

" Give her my love if you see her again-" 

I could not help laughing. It was so formal and 
old-fashioned, and it also implied that the visitor was 
dismissed, or in any case that her presence was no 
longer desirable. Lucie van Stael looked a little an- 
noyed, and I could not help being impressed by the fact 
that, whereas I had been pointedly rude to her and had 
been caught out telling her a lie, she seemed to bear 
me no ill-will, but Madeline's indifference nettled her. 
She took her departure with less show of effusion. The 
door had hardly snapped-to on her before Madeline ex- 
claimed : 

" What on earth can Auntie Laura find in a person 


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like that ? " And then very breathlessly : " I say . . . 
can we ask the Maguires to stop to supper ? " 

I put off my visit to " The Duchess of Pless " for 
five days. It was only the haunting dread that some- 
thing might appear in the newspapers which eventually 
drove me on to fulfil my unpleasant task. How would 
father take it? Of one thing I was convinced — it 
would upset him greatly. It is a curious fact that al- 
though be saw so little of Laura, and not a great deal 
of me, I know that we were ever present in his thoughts. 
Our welfare was one of his living preoccupations. He 
had grown accustomed to our neglect of him. It was 
quite natural that we should go off and get married. 
The great gulf of years between him and us indeed 
created a certain barrier of uncompanionableness. His 
interests were not our interests. At the same time he 
was very alert to our well-being and conduct, and I 
knew that he had a ponderous — not to say Victorian 
— respect for what is called honour. I dreaded his 
sense of honour. It was like a sledge-hammer. He 
had never realised that there had been a serious breach 
between Laura and her husband. He knew that she 
had gone away, but he did not know the conditions. He 
believed it was to do with her work. He viewed artists 
as queer, irregular people, likely to do queer, irregular 
things. They were essentially creatures to be laughed 
at and pitied, but at the same time — there is only one 
standard for all Christian people when it comes down 
to fundamentals. 

I found him upstairs with stepmother in the parlour. 
As I entered the room there flashed through my mind 
a kind of myopic vision of our concentrated lives there. 
There was something about this house which never 


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changed. It seemed to be the only place in the universe 
not susceptible to the friction of time. I believed that 
whatever I did, whatever experiences were in store for 
me, I should always come back and find father in the 
horsehair chair, reading the Morning Advertiser, step- 
mother sitting primly on the couch, knitting, the wax 
fruit and " The Death of Wolfe," the parafiBn lamp with 
the green shade — he greatly objected to electricity — 
the crowded furniture, and the faded memory of many 
teas, Laura coming home from the Royal Academy, the 
brown-paper parcels, the Kings of North and South 
Carolina. It required an effort of will to see beyond 
this vision to the larger issues of my visit. Father 
cried out : 

" Hullo, Tom ! Glad to see you.'' 

Stepmother was getting a little feeble. She did not 
seem to recognise me at first, but when she did she 
held up her cheek to be kissed, and said : 

" We're just going to have a cup of tea. Will you 
have one, Tom ? " 

I said I should be delighted, and I sat there talking 
to them both about my business, and the weather, and 
the coming general election. I felt embarrassed and 
uncomfortable. I could not tell father about Laura 
with i^pmother in the room. I could not be sure how 
he would take it. And he might not wish her to know. 
At the end of an hour I felt I must make a desperate 
move, so I said suddenly: 

^'I wonder whether you would come down to the 
little room at the back of the bar for a few minutes, 
dad? I want to consult you about a business con- 

^^ Yes, yea, of course. Won't be long, Annie." 

We went downstairs, and I felt my heart beating. 
We heard the drone of the bars and the popping of 
corks. Father turned up the light. 


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"WeU, mylad?" 

I fidgeted from one leg to another. 

"It's like this, dad. It isn't about my business I 
wanted to speak to you at all. It's something else. 
It's to do with — Laura." 


There was a tap on the door, and Mrs. Beddoes' be- 
powdered face appeared. 

" Excuse me, Mr. Purbeck. Johnson is asking for 
sherry. We've nothing except that lot that came from 
the Bennison sale. Shall we open some ? " 

" No, no. I won't have that served. It's inferior 

" They won't take it back, sir." 

" Then we'll pour the lot away." 

"All right, Mr. Purbeck." 

She vanished. It did not seem an auspicious start. 

" Well, Tom, what's this about Laura ? " 

*' I don't know whether you know, dad, her marriage 
with Edgar Beyfus was not a success. She has left 

" What do you mean — she has left him? " 

" She has gone away. She refuses to live with him 
any longer." 

Father's eyes rolled menacingly. 

" What has he Has he been unfaithful ? " 

" I don't know. In any case, they have quarrelled." 

" But they are still man and wife. She can't go off 
like that." 

" She has." 

" A woman can't leave her husband without proper 

" But she has left him, dad." 

" I must write to her. She can't do that. She must 
go back." 

" You know what Laura is, dad. She won't go back. 


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Besides — there's something elsa She wants to marry 
another man — a Frenchman/' 

Father was speechless. He took out his pipe, and 
put it back in his pocket He gave me a searchmg look 
as though he held me responsible, in the same way that 
I had held Lucie van Stael responsible. The position 
of the bringer of evil tidings is never an enviable one. 
In the old days they used to kill them. 

" How can she marry another man when she's already 
married ? " 

" Divorce." 

" But, damn it, boy! you say she has no grounds for 

Poor old chap ! Why must I torture him like this ? 
But it had got to be done. 

" I'm afraid the fact is Beyfus may divorce her." 

" Do you mean to say ^" 

For a moment I thought he was going to strike me. 
He looked ugly ; very much like he did on the day when 
he turned out the unfortunate Zuk. His eyes pro- 
truded, his cheeks appeared shiny, his hair bristled. 
He thrust his head forward, and opened and clenched his 
fists. Then he seemed suddenly to fall to pieces. He 
turned away and said in a choking voice: 

" It's not a nice thing to have happened, Tom." 

The mildness of this verdict moved me more than 
any explosion of anger. It was pitiable . . . finished. 
He had read the truth in my eyes, and he knew that the 
position was irrecoverable. He fixed his eyes upon a 
coloured print of a stag-hunt, and suddenly he made a 
comment which surprised me: 

"I was a fool to have sent her to that Royal 

In those brief seconds he must have focussed her 
whole career. The unfortunate institution in Tenter- 
den Street had been primarily responsible. It had 


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filled her head with false ambitions. She had come in 
touch with all these restless, undesirable people. I 
could not help following father's eye, and also studying 
the stag-hunt. A lady in a bowler hat and a stiff black 
frock was gracefully taking a hedge, surrounded by a 
pack of dogs. A huntsman in front had been thrown 
and was picking himself out of a ditch. What a much 
more enviable life! Doubtless in good time the lady 
would marry the fallen huntsman. They would lead 
normal, healthy lives. They would hunt, and eat, and 
bring up a large family of sporting. God-fearing chil- 
dren, who would do the same. They would suffer no 
misgivings, have none of these complicated twists and 
turns of the soul. 

Poor Laura I . . . Poor old dad I . . . 


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DURING the following two years the firm of 
Jevons & Purbeck made surprising progress. 
Our success in the first place was undoubtedly 
due to th(3 two instances of sheer luck which I have re- 
corded, but as time went on we established a more solid 
reputation. Jevons said I was a demon for work, and 
I think it was true. This passion for accomplishment 
was the legacy of my suffering. I was driven to it 
blindly, and having once started I felt no desire to re- 
lax. It was never a frenzy for making money ; it was 
just the impetus to do something that was worth doing 
worthily. I made an exhaustive study of the decorative 
trade. However busy we were, I always found time for 
museums, and books, and old buildings. I got to love 
the work, and in a very short time we moved our 
premises to Soho, and had our own workshops. 

Madeline realised her ambition of a week-end cot- 
tage, which we found near High Wycombe, and we 
moved to a rather larger and more comfortable house in 
St. John^s Wood. We extended our circle of acquaint- 
anceship, and frequently I took her to theatres and con- 
certs. Even if I was still a victim to the emotional 
stress of these e!feperiences, I realised that that was no 
excuse for starving the child. We made many new 
friends, but the most delightful surprise in the way of 
friendship was that with Monsieur le Marquis de Thor 



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Laura^s divorce was accomplished with considerable 
publicity, but without much fuss. It might have been 
more difficult had it not been that at that time Edgar 
had made the acquaintance of a South American widow, 
who was extremely wealthy and who had dark, languish- 
ing eyes. Laura was married to the marquis in Bor- 
deaux a week after the divorce had been pronounced. 
A honeymoon under the circumstances, I presume, must 
have seemed superfluous, for they came to London im- 
mediately. You can imagine with what trepidation I 
awaited to see this " well-intentioned " and " distin- 
guished" bon enfant. They stayed at the Metropole, 
and I went to dine with them on the evening of their 
arrival. I must say at once that Lucie van Stael had 
not lied. He was indeed a delightful young man. He 
must have been five or six years younger than Laura. 
He was as different from the usual British conception 
of a Frenchman as he could well be. He was fair, with 
deep blue, reflective eyes and an extremely reserved 
manner. He spoke in a rich, low voice, and without 
gesture. When I saw them together it occurred to me 
that in effect Laura might be a Frenchwoman married 
to an Englishman, instead of the reverse. Laura had 
not worn well. She looked much older. Her face was 
lined and, I thought, over-powdered. She had de- 
veloped some cunning way of doing up her dark hair 
which made her look very foreign. People stared at her, 
and it was not surprising, with her striking, almost 
bizarre effect of black velvet and white skin, with car- 
mine lips, and the little diamonds glittering at her 
throat : a touch of green somewhere — I think a green 
velvet flower at her breast. She looked liappy enough, 
but as though she had been throng*: awful experiences. 
She was very moved when she saw me, and kept pressing 
my hand and murmuring: 

" Dear old man . . . dear old man," 


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•We had hardly seated ouradiveB at table before she 

'^ Henri, let's have some champagne to-night — just 
to welcome Tom." 

I noted that Henri made no c(Hnment. He ordered 
the champagne but he did not drink any himsel£ I 
had two glasses, and I believe Laura drank the rest. 

She quickly warmed to me^ and we became intimate. 
She was the Laura of old. 

''I have not made a mistake this time," she said 
suddenly, smiling at Henri, who smiled back solemnly 
in response. 

She talked quite simply about her love-affairs, and 
talked of Henri as though he were not there, or as 
though he were a little boy whose presence hardly 
counted. She told me all about his lovable character 
and his work. He was, indeed, a scientist, and he had 
written books on metallurgy, and sublimates, and con- 
glomerates and such things. 

" What I like about Henri," she suddenly remarked, 
'^is that I can tell him everything. He understands 
so . . . Oh, it's wonderful ! I didn't know I could be 
so happy, Tom. He knows everything, every little 
thing about me." 

Henri turned his reflective, adoring eyes upon her 
and said: 

" Foolish woman ! Tour brother will think I am a 
paragon, a — what do you call it? — a prig, eh? I 
am, on the contrary, a very wicked man, married to an 
abandoned woman, who drinks champagne." 

Laura sipped her wine and exclaimed: 

"Isn't he perfectly sweet I You must love each 
other, you two." > 

We grinned at each other in that foolish way that 
men will when put in an embarrassing position. Afl a 


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matter of fact, I think Henri already liked me, and I 
certainly felt drawn towards him. Laura chatted on : 

" I have told Henri all about father, and he quite — 
understands. How is dad ? " 

I answered that he was well, but I did not tell Laura 
how father had taken the whole affair. I am sure 
that Henri would not have been able to understand. 
He considered that he had acted honourably, but 
father^s ideas of honour were different. I dreaded 
what might transpire when they met. We arranged 
that they should come to us the following night, as 
Laura was crazy to see Madeline again, and that on the 
following night we should all visit " The Duchess of 
Pless.'' Laura was still a little dubious about Henri. 
She kept on repeating: 

" It's a queer place, Henri. You mustn't be 

And he replied promptly : 

" I shall be most entertained. I have a great respect 
for your father, from what you have told me of him.'' 


The meeting at our house was almost hilarious. 
Madeline and Henri hit it off at once. My daughter 
at last had met someone whose mission it was to find out 
about things. He talked to her quite solemnly, as 
though she were a grown-up person. He told her all 
kinds of interesting things about the stars, and the 
formation of the earth, and the tides, and the law of 
gravitation. He did not attempt to patronise her. 
Her eyes gleamed with interest. I believe Laura was 
almost jealous — not of Madeline but of Henri. She 
wanted to have the child to herself, but Henri almost 
monopolised her. 


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As I listened to Henri and observed his kind, candid, 
fatherly manner, I thought to myself: " How fine it is 
for Laura I There is no doubt she has found the right 
man this time. It is like a miracle. Dear old Laura ! 
I'm so glad." 

We eagerly discussed our future plans. Laura and 
Henri were to have a house in Curzon Street. It had 
already been negotiated for. They were to spend part 
of their time in London, and the rest in Paris and down 
the South. Moreover, the old ambitions were again 
stirring. Henri offered no objections to her continuing 
her professional career if it made her happier. He 
had given her a Strad. 

" I shall only go for the good things now," she said. 
"No more of these flap-doodle ballad shows for me." 

She was in the highest spirits. We discussed taking 
a furnished house in Cornwall for August and Septem- 
ber, which we were to share. 

" And I should like," continued Laura, " to get the 
dear old dad and stepmother down for a bit." 

We laughed and talked and plotted. We were a 
merry, congenial party. At half-past nine Madeline 
dashed out into the hall to answer to the postman's 
knock. She returned with a letter which she held out 
to me. 

" A letter from grandpa," she said. 

" Good ! " I answered. " I wrote to him last night. 
This will be about our going to-morrow." 

I opened the letter, and stared at it. I read it 
through five times. I could not put it down. I tried 
to crumple it up in my hands, but Laui*a snatched it 
from me. 

"What's the matter, Tom?" 

I could not prevent her reading it. I sat there like 
one paralysed. Madeline looked over Laura's shoulder. 
This is the letter they read: 


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" Deab Tom, 

" I have a son but no daughter. I have no wish 
to meet the Marshoness of wherever it is. 

" Your affectionate 

" Fatheb/' 

Henri looked enquiringly at his wife, who went quite 
whita We none of us spoke until Madeline blurted 

" Whatever does he mean ? Why does he say he has 
no daughter when Aimtie Laura is sitting here all the 

Then Laura burst into tears. 

" It's just my luck ! It's always my luck ! " she 

It was useless to pretend to Henri that nothing was 
amiss, so I took the letter and handed it to him. He 
read it through at a glance, then he patted Laura's 

"My dear," he said quietly, "he does not under- 
stand. He cannot know that we are married." 

"Oh, yes, he does. You don't understand. You 
can't understand — father." 

Henri looked extremely perplexed. He knew that 
he had acted sincerely and honourably. His friends 
had told him he had acted with extraordinary magna- 
nimity. According to his code his position was unas- 
sailable. He had fulfilled his obligations to the letter. 
He was even on his way to be entirely familiar and 
friendly to his wife's father, who, he had been told, 
was a common old pot-house keeper. He intended to 
show that he did not in any way wish to presume upon 
this social discrepancy. He would treat him as an 
equal. How could any honourable and well-intentioned 
man do otherwise ? And then this amazing letter ! It 
was simply incomprehensible. 


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'^ Same misunderstandiiig/' he muttered, looking 
from one to the other. 


But I knew, and Laura, dabbing her eyes with her 
handkerchief, knew that there was no misunderstand- 
ing. The issues were perfectly clear, and quite irrec- 
oncilable. Henri was right and father was right, but 
neither the twain could possibly adapt his point of view 
to the other. Henri had his code. He may even have 
been harbouring a slight sense of liberality in coming to 
forgive the girFs father for being a publican. He had 
gone a little beyond the actual prescriptions of Ihe code. 
But away over there, amidst those dingy tankards and 
glass screens, the antimacassars and stuffy furniture, 
was another code. A strange, relentless, Victorian code, 
something which could not be turned aside or bought. 
A code which believed in fair dealing, in decent action, 
in refusing to adulterate wine or to serve inferior 
sherry. A code which would never under any circum- 
stances forgive adultery. 

Henri frankly did not understand. He turned the 
letter over. 

" What does he mean by the ^ marshoness of wherever 
it is'?" 

I believe for the moment he was more concerned 
about this slight to the family name than to the moral 
imputation. He wondered whether any possible scan- 
dal could have arisen connected with the name to pro* 
duce so gross a breach of courtesy. 

Laura snatched the letter from his hand. 

" It's no good,** she said. " Father is like that. We 
shall have to — cut him out, dear." 

Henri nodded sagely. Of course, now he undeor- 


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stood. This old potman was a drunkard. He was 
probably drunk when he wrote that letter. His beau- 
tiful Laura was distressed. She did not wish her hus- 
band to meet the old reprobate. There might be an 
unfortunate contretemps. She had always been a little 
apprehensive about the meeting. Well, well, it was of 
no great importance. Eegrettable, extremely regretta- 
ble that the father should be a drunkard. He must 
be avoided. His adorable wife must be kept from 
the contamination . . . Henri suddenly gave her one 
of his quick, penetrating glances, and moved a little 
uneasily in his chair. Eegrettable, very regrettable. 
. . . Eather odd . . . did his beloved one sometimes 
seem disposed to . . . demand rather a lot of wine? 
Henri continued to stroke the bridge of his nose. 

To Madeline also the whole affair was incomprehensi- 
ble. It was unfortunate that she should have been 
present. The letter did not distress her so much as 
Laura's sudden outburst of tears. For a moment I 
thought she was going to cry herself, then she stamped 
up and down the room, and exclaimed vehemently: 

" I shall go and see grandpa to-morrow, and give him 
a jolly good talking to." 

Henri smiled, and put his arm round her. 

" You are a little tigress, I can see." 

" Well, it's so stupid ; so utterly stupid ! He might 
as well say he hasn't got a pair of trousers when he's 
wearing them all the time." 

We all laughed at that, and the atmosphere seemed to 
clear a little. I was anxious to change the subject, for 
I knew that it would be useless to discuss it. Only 
Laura and I alone could discuss it. I fetched some de- 
signs which I had been making for a panelled room. 
We looked at them, and sat talking till half -past ten, 
when Laura and Henri took their departure. Laura 


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and I could only exchange glances, but I invited her to 
come down and inspect our new business premises the 
following day, 


I lay awake that night for a long time, thinking over 
the unfortunate situation. It must have been about 
two o'clock in the morning when an idea suddenly leapt 
to the forefront of my sombre reflections. " Uncle 
Stephen ! " There was something about Uncle Stephen 
that was very get-at-able. He was less Puritanical than 
father and more informative. I always felt that I could 
say anything to him. He was not by any means a clever 
man, but he had a curious breadth of outlook, and a 
rather shrewd way of making deductions. I found him 
in the office of his stationery business just before lunch- 
time. He called out : 

" Hullo, Tom, come to lend me some money ? Wait 
ten seconds, and we'll go and have a bite of something 

We went to a little Italian cafe near by, where, as 
Uncle Stephen said, "the food was vile but the best 
you can get in Notting Hill." He was elated at the 
success of Jevons & Purbeck, and I could get him to^tfllk 
of nothing else. It was not till we were regaling our- 
selves with two very good cigars, and drinking a luke- 
warm liquid which the management described as coflFee, 
that I got an opportunity of laying bare the full story 
of our family upheaval. Uncle Stephen listened and 
nodded and twirled his dark moustache. It did not 
seem to produce in him any manifestation of surprise, 
or indignation, or sympathy. He merely kept saying: 
" Yes ? Well 2 " When I had finished he said : 

" Well, what do you want me to do, boy ? " ^fS , 

" I only wondered whether it would be possible for 


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jovL, as his brother, to go to him, and try and make 
things all right? Explain exactly how it came about, 
and make him see that Laura and Henri did the wisest 
and best thing." 

Uncle Stephen leant across the table and tapped me 
on the shoulder with his long first finger. 

" Tom, did you ever see Arthur Shrewsbury batting 
for Notts on a plumb wicket, with a schoolboy pitching 
him up long hops ? " 

" I can't say I ever did." 

**He never took any risks, whoever was bowling. 
I should stand about as much chance of getting your 
father out as the schoolboy would have of getting out 
Shrewsbury. Oh, no, lad. I've known your father 
for over sixty years. He's set. He's got his eye in. 
Nothing could move him." 

He flicked the end of his cigar into the coffee-saucer 
and went on: 

" I don't say anything one way or the other about 
the rights and wrongs of the case. I've seen too mucL 
I've never been a Shrewsbury nor even a Jessop. I'm 
just an ordinary back-garden player. I've not even 
been a Joseph. I've made love and not r^retted it. 
I've made money and lost it, and made it again. I 
believe in sport as the best school. One learns to give 
and take, to take the best with the worst, and never to 
kick or grouse. But your old man is of different metal. 
He's a Shrewsbury. A first-wicket man, a man who'll 
never alter his style. It doesn't matter who's bowling 
against him. He knows he's got iron nerves and a 
wrist of steel, and he knows that the honour of the side 
depends on him. You couldn't get past his defence 
with a cannon-ball." 

" But surely, uncle, he can be made to see that there 
may be two sides to a case ? I've never known him do 
anything unkind in my life." 


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Uncle Stephen drew back and locked at me medita- 
tivelj, as thongh brooding upon the advisability of a 
confidence. I pressed my point. 

"Have you?" 

Uncle Stephen coughed, and looked round the little 
restaurant The few stray customers were immersed 
in newspapers. Speaking in a lower voice, he replied: 

"I believe I gave you a tip once, Ton^ that your 
mother — drank a bit, eh ? " 


'' He took her from the sunshine of Spain and Chile, 
and brought her into this filthy climate. She was 
twenty-four, a beautiful girl -^- more beautiful than 
Laura. He took her to the pub in Camden Town. 
She loved him, but she hated the country. Above all 
•he hated the climate. The fogs, and the wet, and the 
dulness, and the cold got on her nerves. She put up 
with it for years, till you and Laura were no longer 
babies. She was always imploring that you should 
all go back to Spain or South America. She didn't 
care which — anywhere where there was sunshine. 
But your father would not. He was not rude about 
it He simply laughed and shook his head. No; his 
business was here, and she was his wife. Do you see ? 
He could not see that there were two sides to the case. 
Then gradually she began to drink. It was very acces- 
sible. Probably it warmed her, or helped to conjure 
up visions of the land she was craving for. He did 
not notice it at first, but after a time no one could help 
noticing it. She nipped secretly all day. Once he 
found her dead-drunk in — the parlour I think it was. 
He was furious. He did not see how it had come 
about. He simply ordered her not to drink again. 
She was his wife. It wasn't the way to behave. He 
didn't conduct his house on those lines. The reputa- 
tion of his well-conducted house would be ruined. But 


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you know what it is, boy, when people once get the 
craving. She got it oiitside. She got it by all manner 
of means. She drank more than ever. They quar- 
relled incessantly. Once she was picked up in the 
street at the comer of your road. The weaker her 
character got, the stronger and sterner he became. He 
could simply see nothing except that she was his wife 
he was anxious to love and support, and she was be- 
having dishonourably. One day he found her in one 
of the rooms in the arms of a f ellow-coimtryman. Tour 
father thrashed the man, and turned your mother put 
into the streets. You ask me whether he ever did an 
unkind action? ... I tell you he's a very strange 
man, boy.*' 

" But what became of mother ? " 

" She died in Paris. I don't know the circum- 
stances. I know it nearly broke his heart. He 
adored her, really. He's a strange man. I tell you 
he has a heart of gold, but everyone has got to play 
the game according to his rules." 

I was already late for my appointment with Laura, 
but I did not feel eager to go. I had certainly nothing 
very helpful to lay before her. I lighted a cigarette 
and tried to appear as tranquil as I could. I said : 

" Thank you very much, uncle." 

He laughed. " TTou might just as well say, * Curse 
you, uncle.' It's not a very pretty story, is it, Tom ? " 

" I would rather know the truth, anyway. It'ri good 
of you to have told me." 

Uncle Stephen continued his ruminations. 

" He's the strangest card I ever met. I found out 
when we were boys that he was too strong for me. He 
has his rules and principles and nothing else simply 


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counts. He wcm't concede an inch. They are not 
always reasonable, but he thinks they're the most im- 
portant thing in the world. Money I . . . Have you 
any idea how much money he has t '' 

^' Not the slightest. He told me once we were hard 
up. It was just after I left schooL He said a part- 
ner had let him in, or something." 

^'That was true to an extent But it was only a 
small amount He's certainly one of the richest men 
in Camden Town. He could buy them all up. He's 
a hard-dealing man. He's kind to the people he loves, 
but he must keep the control in his own hands. All 
the money he's made he's made by hard work and fair 
dealing, and he believes that everyone else ought to 
do the same. He could easily have afforded to send 
you to cdlege, or abroad to study, or have put you into 
one of the big professions. We argued about it. But 
na The boy must make his own way, as he had. I 
knew the kind of lad you were, and Uiat was why I 
pitched up that yarn about 'Baionnette' winning the 

" What ! " I exclaimed. " Do you mean that it 
wasn't true ? " 

^^ It was true that ' Baionnette ' won, and that I won 
a couple of fivers." 

" Uncle ! You ought not to have done that ! " 

'^It was touch-and-go. I waited till you were over 
age. I thought there might be an infernal row about 
it. We were, I know, all on the edge of a volcano. 
It was Laura who put the lid on it. When he saw 
that she meant to tdke the money whether he liked it 
or not, he compromised with himself, I should think for 
the first time in his life. But he has never quite for- 
given me." 


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"I wonder ... if he gave in to Laura on that 
occasion when he saw that she did not mean to give 
way — perhaps he would on this." 

" There's no comparison at all. After all, the money 
was not dishonestly come by. There was no disgrace 
about it. It was a fair win and a fair gift. It was 
only that he was superstitious about it, don't you see? 
He kept on saying, * N"o good comes of it.' But this 
aflFair! . . . Mind you, I'm not criticising. But how- 
ever you like to explain it away, you can't get away 
from the fact that Laura gave herself to this man 
when she was already a married woman. It was 
adultery. He turned his wife out of the house for 
much less reason. I'm sorry, old boy, but I simply 
wouldn't have the pluck to go and tackle him about it 
I know him too well." 

" Well, uncle, I'm very grateful to you. I must be 

I found Laura in one of our show-rooms. She was 
in a very bad temper. 

" You said you'd be here at half -past two, Tom." 

" Sorry, old girl ; I've been kept by a business en- 
gagement. Let me show you round." 

But Laura's interest in our new premises was ex- 
tremely apathetic. She said she felt tired and had a 
headache. She wanted to sit on one of the comfort- 
able Chesterfields. We sat in silence for some moments. 
Then I said : 

" I'm afraid it's going to be difficult — this business 
with dad." 

Laura scowled at me. Then she said fiercely : 

" Do you think I care — whether the old fool wants 
to see me or not ? " 

I looked at her and answered quietly: 


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" Yes, I think you do." 

And then, of course, she cried. 

Jevons thrust his head outside the door of the inner 
office. He did not notice Laura. He called out to 

" We've got that Wychley Court job, Tont" 


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THE occupants of Wychley Court were most 
delightful and sympathetic people. Jevons 
and I had been introduced to them by Lady 
Stourport. They consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Waynes- 
foote and their daughter Stella. Mr. Waynesf oote was 
a courtly old gentleman with charming manners. He 
had been in the diplomatic service, had owned news- 
papers, and written books on sub-tropical fauna. He 
was deaf in one ear and he had a habit of holding 
his hand cup-shaped at the back of his other ear, and 
leaning forward and saying: 

" Eeally ! Now that^s most interesting ! " 
Quite ordinary remarks appeared to impress him as 
being profound revelations. In spite of his deafness, 
he was the best listener I have ever met. He wanted 
to know everything, and he never forgot anything you 
told him. At our very first interview he was not con- 
tent only to discuss the alterations he proposed to have 
at Wychley Court, but he wanted to know all about 
myself, my life, my work, my moral and spiritual out- 
look. He was a far more intellectual man than I, but 
he had that genius of suggesting that it was just the 
other way about. He would ask me my opinion as 
though it was a matter of the utmost importance to 
liiTrt- He must have been a good diplomat, for he 


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always made me give myself away. I simply rattled 
on to him like a babbling child. After our second in- 
terview he invited me down to spend the week-end. 
Mrs. Waynesfoote was one of those compact, grey- 
eyed New England women, who had lived in this 
country since the day of her wedding — twenty-eight 
years ago — but still retained the strong characteristics 
of her race. Stella was something of a contrast to her 
parents . . . unexpected. Fair, jolly, and on the sur- 
face rather a tomboy. Always dressing up, and wear- 
ing striking effects. Even her face and hair were not, 
I suspected, free from artificial attention. But you 
felt that all this was not vanity, but just the joy and 
fun of doing it. She loved an effect, and dancing, 
and the friction of social life. She inherited the 
parents' keen interest in everything and everyone. The 
very first time I went there I felt that they were 
old friends. Before I had known them a month Mrs. 
Waynesfoote asked me to bring Madeline down. We 
went, and the visit was an unqualified success. Made- 
line said afterwards that she had never been asked so 
many questions in her life. And she did not require 
any encouragement. She prattled on quite unselfcon- 
sciously. They were all very amused with her. Mr. 
Waynesfoote listened to her opinions with the same 
rapt attention he had paid to mine. She had never 
been to such a beautiful and luxurious house, and she 
did not hesitate to say so, or to go around and examine 
everything in detail. She and Stella became fast 
friends. The friendship came at an opportune time, 
for Madeline was feeling the loss of Elspeth and Dolly 
Maguire, who had gone back to Canada. Stella must 
have been ten or eleven years older than Madeline, so 
that they could not have been quite as intimate as the 
Maguire children, but she was extremely kind. When 
they were in town Stella visited us in St. John's Wood, 


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and sometimes she took Madeline for a run in the car 
to Eoehampton, or Hurlingham, or Henley. 

Laura and Henri had gone back to France. The 
breach with father was never healed. It was I who 
eventually had to go and plead, and then for the 
first time in my life I beheld an aspect of him which 
during all these years I had never suspected. Uncle 
Stephen was right. He was absolutely immovable — 
almost brutal to me. He accused me of conniving at 
vice, of condoning my sister's unchastity. He said 
that on the occasion of that interview when I had 
hinted at what had happened, he was simply ashamed 
of me. He would have been prouder if I'd gone to 
France and " thrashed that blackguardly marquis to a 
jelly." He said he didn't know what was going to 
happen to this country. All the young people seemed 
to have no honour, no morals, no religion. I made a 
final plea that perhaps we had charity. He fumed at 

^^ I have charity too — for the poor and weak, but 
I should be ashamed to use it as a cloak to licentious- 
ness. If we are to have charity for every vice — by 
God! what will happen to this country? I couldn't 
flee why he wanted to keep on talking about* "the 
country." I wanted to say I didn't give a damn about 
the country ; I was concerned with Laura. And then I 
flaw that this would be weak. It was true, father be- 
lieved implicitly in the country. He was a staunch 
patriot. He believed in England, the Church, the King, 
honour, and the licensing trade. I could do nothing 
with him. Our two points of view were irreconcilable. 
And I felt that mine was the weaker case. It was nebu- 
lous, difficult to explain, and it had no figure-heads. I 
could have talked till Doomsday without convincing him 
one iota. And afterwards I could not help being im- 
pressed by the spectacle of a man sacrificing someone he 


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loved dearly for a principle. I was not myself capable 
of such an exalted attitude. To me love always comes 


As was to be expected, the idea of sharing a fur- 
nished house in Cornwall with Laura and Henri for 
the summer holidays did not materialise. They were 
staying at their chateau on the Loire, near Amboise, 
and they invited us to go over and stay with them; 
but I did not feel at that time that I could leave the 
business for so long, as Jevons had been ill and had 
had to go away for a complete rest. Neither did I 
feel eager to let Madeline go alone. Somehow I had 
got a little out of touch with Laura, and I did not 
know Henri sufficiently well. I could form no idea of 
the kind of life they lived, or of the kind of people 
they entertained. Madeline was very precious to me. 
I wanted her to have a good change, but I wanted her 
to be easily accessible. I explained all this one day 
to Mr. Waynesfoote, and the following day I had a 
letter from Mrs. Waynesfoote inviting Madeline to 
stay with them at their country house on the Sussex 
downs for August, and inviting me to go for as long 
and as often as I could. I hoped they did not think 
I had fished for this invitation, but it was very accepta- 
ble. The Waynesfootes were becoming more and more 
intimate. They were so easy to get on with. In spite 
of some aristocratic streak in the family, there was no 
fuss or side. Probably Mrs. Waynesfoote had brought 
a bold streak of democratic unconventionality into a 
life which might easily have become stereotyped. In 
the country they were at their best. They wore shabby 
old clothes, although Stella always managed to make 
herself arresting, with vari-coloured jumpers, bright 


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plaids, and daring scarves. She was a fine horse- 
woman, and Madeline, to her delight, was taught to 
ride. I went down for sundry week-ends, and in Sep- 
tember managed to stay for a whole week. Madeline 
eventually stayed on till the school re-opened in the 
third week in September. 

There was a continuous house-party. The people we 
met there were as removed from the Woodstack people 
as Woodstack was from " The Duchess of Pless." It 
was a different world from any I had been used to. 
There were members of Parliament, knights of industry 
and science, people eminent in the arts. But they 
were not invited for their reputations but because the 
Waynesfootes liked them. They were not tuft-hunters, 
neither was there any attempt to accentuate social dis- 
tinctions. I sometimes wondered what some of these 
people would have thought if they had known that my 
father was a Camden Town publican. I blush to say 
that I had not even informed the Waynesfootes them- 
selves of this fact. I have no excuse to offer. It was 
just the inner streak of snobbery which we nearly all pos- 
sess in some form or another. I had never given Made* 
liae any advice about the matter, but I am quite sure 
that she avoided the subject also. I wore my dinner- 
jacket, and sat on the terrace, sipping coffee, and talk- 
ing to some woman who had never ridden in a public 
conveyance, or done up one of her own frocks in her 
life, and we talked quite familiarly about Villon, or 
George Moore, or the diseases of dogs, or the ideal 
way to run a state; and I thought to myself: 

" It's a queer world ! " 

I confess that I easily fell a victim to the narcotic of 
these social nuances. I suppose, as Kadic said, I 
"went down the sink." But what is man if not a 
social being? And if so, why not do it as well as 
possible? It is in the social hour that man surveys 


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hia story. It is the moment of his triimiph. Outside 
the beasts are still fighting in the wood, the stubborn 
roots of trees are struggling in the ground^ the rocks 
are wasting against the pressure of the wind . . • 
everything that he has sprung from. Within, cun- 
ning lights reveal the rich display of his imagination, 
materials of fine texture and design, things old and 
nobly wrought . • . all that he has wrung from the 
cold heart of Nature, the story of his day. Above all 
• • • those others whom he needs with a passionate in- 
sistence — their eyes seeking his. Lively thinking, the 
little corridors to high adventure, leading hither and 
thither. The eternal experiment, with his mind 
crystal-clear reading the portents. A rower cannot see 
the beauty of the river or realise the distance he has 
coma It is only when he rests upon his oars or glides 
between the reeds, and sees the martins swing above the 
willow-herb ... it is all clear then; the distance, the 
colour, the majesty of changing life, the significance of 
his place in it 

Heigho ! I suppose I was (^hanging, toa 
I was becoming a comparatively successful man, 
hardening, developing a material crust. The impetus 
to being ^^ a successful man in myself " was slackening, 
or being modified by insuflScient support I was con- 
tent to follow behmd Madeline, learning from her, 
watching the white ribbon of the road ahead. 


One day in the autumn I was s^it for to go and see 
my father. I found him only partly conscious. He 
was lying on his back in bed, and his face was quite 
yellow. Stepmother and a nurse were hovering about 
the room. He pressed my hand and said : 

Tom . . • they've got me." And then he mum- 

U I 


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bled something of which I only caught the word '^ kid- 

I turned away to the nursa 
^ " Do yon mean to say ? " I gasped. 

She nodded her head, and whispered, "It's very 

I was terribly alarmed. I waited for the visit of 
the doctor, and he gave me no hope at all. I wandered 
about the house disconsolately, I could not believe it. 
The only permanent comer in the universe suddenly 
brought face to face with dissolution. My father 
would die, and this house, sacred to the thousand mem- 
ories of our united lives, wou^d crumble and pass away. 
Here was the spot where Laura and I did Hubert and 
Arthur, and i^e had caught my eye, and laughed. 
. . . Here, probably, mother used to sit, and watch 
the rain splashing down in the dull streets, dreaming of 
Spain. The dark passage and the print of Queen 
Victoria, the comer where I used to climb up on the 
steps and look into the private bar. Why must all 
these things be^ so vivid ? I went into the bar, and 
spoke to Mrs. Beddoes. How sordid and dreary it aU 
seemed. Probably, coming fresh from WycUey Court 
helped to emphasise the gaping ugliness. How could 
I have ever found pleasure in this atmosphere ? A few 
dingy men were huddled together in the public bar, 
the private was deserted, but a fat old man waa seated 
in a comer of the saloon, apparently asleep. Mrs. 
Beddoes was whispering to a barmaid. "Poor old 
fellow 1 " I heard her say, but the eyes of both of 
them were bright, not with grief, but with that kind 
of excitement which a death or a funeral always eixoites 
among certain people. 

I had never thought of my father dying. He was 
not the kind to die. He loved life. It was all such 
a simple process to him. Why couldn't he be allowed 


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to live — laughing, and joking, polishing his brown 
boots, and doing tilings properly? They would talk 
of him in years to come — " Old Purbeck's Paradise " 
— a queer old crank — but they would never know the 
secrets of his heart. They would never know that he 
gave up the two people he loved most dearly for a 
principle. Strong and incorruptible, imimaginative 
and narrow-minded, kind but unduly cautious, pas- 
sionate but self-centred — if it hadn't been all so sim- 
ple to him ! 

I hung about " The Duchess of Pless " for ten days, 
going in two or three times a day from our place of 
business. On several occasions I met Uncle Stephen, 
and he was a great help and comfort The first time 
I met him there, he said: 

"Well, boy, it's no good pretending. They've got 
through his defence at last He may keep up his 
wicket for an over or two, but he won't score any 
more runs." 

I think this brought home the inevitable to me more 
than any other statement. The whole thing became a 
dream. Curious people appeared and vanished. Step- 
mother, who would not leave the room, and would not 
weep. Doctors, and specialists, and business friends, 
a succession of nurses. Upstairs the ever-present 
tragedy, downstairs the eternal drone of the bars and 
the popping of corks. There seemed to be a kind of 
conspiracy that, whatever happened, this must not stop. 
The gods demanded this accompaniment to the render- 
ing of their elegiac The dream was dominated by 
the personality of Uncle Stephen darting hither and 
thither, keeping people on the move, and being sensible. 
His dark moustache appeared more obviously dyed than 
ever, as his face appeared bony and lined and hollow, 
and the short hair on his temple had become quite 
whitOL He seemed to be living up to the formula: 


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" Back your fancy. If you lose, don't grouse or kick. 
Sport is the best school." 

On the tenth evening I was alone with my father. I 
did not know whether he was conscious or not. Sud- 
denly he looked at ma 


"Yes, dad?" 

He did not speak for some minutes. He seemed 
to be pulling himself together for a great effort Then 
he said: 

" Tom . . . what really happens when you die ? " 

I was taken at a complete disadvantage. I never felt 
more fully the inadequacy of my own convictions. I 
stammered and muttered: 

" Oh, I — I expect it's all right, dad." 

" Yee ; but what really happens ? " 

I was amazed. He was afraid of death. This 
strong man of iron principles and religious faith was 
suddenly become a child afraid of the dark. 

" You go on ... I expect." 

"Yes . . . but the people we love? . . ." 

I leant over him. It was an opportunity I had been 

"Dadl do you hear me? . . . Laura is back in 
town. Laura is here — only ten minutes away. Do 
you hear me, dad ? " 

I do not know whether he heard me or not. I 
fancy not. His eyes were closed, and his face was 
set in that mask-like pose of absolute concentration 
which only the dying possess. I repeated my state- 
ment, but he gave no sign. He appeared to be ab- 
sorbed in this new problem which has disturbed the 
imagination from time immemorial. The minutes 
ticked away. Once he sighed. It must have been a 
quarter of an hour before he showed a disposition to 


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speak again. Then he muttered something I oonld not 
hear. I put my ear close to his mouth. 

"Yes, dad?" 

" They ought not . . . tell Mrs. B. . . . ought not 
decant . . . that stuff from . . • wass name • . . 
people in Leadenhall . • . not before June . . . end 
of May . . ." 

Those were the last words my father spoka He died 
at five o'clock the next morning. 


Stella married me three months later. It was her 
suggestion. At least, I have always contended sa 
What would you do if you had a letter like the fol- 
lowing? It came soon after she had been 8pendin|[ 
a week with us : 

" My Lobd and Masteb^ 

" In the first place, perhaps, I ought to thank 
you for your hospitality. Well, then, it was very nice 
indeed. There, is that restrained enough for you? 
Father has given me a perfect duck of a shawl, an old 
Paisley. I believe even you will have to do more 
than grunt when you see it. Tou are always accusing 
me of thinking too much about the body. But what 
would you? You have to think about it to get the 
utmost out of it. The soul is a self-supporting article, 
a kind of hardy perennial. But, oh, my lord, the 
body withers and withers. TJgh! The great secret 
is to be always looking ahead, so that you are not taken 
by surprise. I have already thought about what I'm 
going to wear when I'm a very old lady with snow- 
white hair in little festoons of curls. I shall wear a 
black frock with tiny lace rufiles, that old brooch of 
Whitby jet and moonstones that used to belong to 





Aunt AlicCj and — tliia shawl. Do you think you 
will know rue then ? Forlorn youth, your mournful 
face haunts mi. With adequate encouragement I 
could iron out evefy wrinkle and frown. Madeline ia 
an angel. Tou must ihmh of her^-I know you do! 
but even a teeny-weeny bit more. 

1 " Tour friend, 

^ "Stella." 

When I read thi& letter through I turned it over and 
smiled. I was about to take up a pen and reply in a 
similar strain. Then I thought to myself: 

"No; this is too important. I cannot be flippant 
in such a case." 

I put it in my pocket, and all night long and the 
next day I thought about it intermittently. About 
four o'clock in the afternoon I got into a fever of rest- 
lessness, i prayed for the wings of Mercury, but fail- 
ing them I conmiandeered an old car which our firm 
used for odd jobs and a young chauffeur who also did 
stencilling, and I winged .my way out of London in the 
direction of Wychley Court. I found Stella in a green- 
house, potting bulbs. She was wearing an overall, and 
she dropped a trowel at sight of me. 

" Good gracious ! What have you come for ? " 

" IVe come in answer to your proposal of marriage." 

''Mj — whatf' 

" I've given the matter every consideration, and tak- 
ing into account all the circumstances of the case, I 
cannot exactly see my way to refuse." 

" You are the most insolent villain I have ever met. 
Go, before I scream for my father to come and horse- 
whip you." 

" In other words, I've come to give you adequate 

" You wretch I You take advantage of my kindness. 

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Because I offered to remove the wrinkles, you . . . 
Oh, Tom, no! No violence . . . no, not again. 
You are hurting me ! " 

Panting against the wall, her face all flushed, she 

" I don't suppose you have even asked your daugh- 
ter's consent ? " 

" She is bound to give it ma We will go together 
on our knees." 

" I have nothing to beg for. Now, do be sensible." 

A long interval devoted to action. 

" How old are you, Sir Launcelot ? " 

" I've reached the romantic age of forty-two." 

"Then I ought to be half that, plus seven. H'm. 
It's very curious. It's very awkward. I'm exactly 
twenty-seven. I'm a year too young." 

" We will have a six-months' honeymoon. That will 
make you half a year older, and me half a year 

" I never thought you could be so ridiculous. Oh, 
dear ! I wish I was dressed for the part I Fancy be- 
ing proposed to in this old overall ! " 

" Stella, I know I'm a middle-aged old fool. I've 
no right to do this. You know all about me. I'm 
lonely, dear. Forlorn, as you say. I suppose it's mad- 
ness of me, but I want you so much. You know, don't 
you ? I can't keep on being flippant. Tell me. Tell 
me what I want to know." 

She did not answer, but she held out her arms. 

When I arrived home that night, I went in very 
sheepishly to see Madeline. I blurted out my con- 
fession, without preliminary. For a moment I thought 
tears hovered in her eyes. Then she kissed me, and 
said quietly : 

"You are a funny old thing, daddy." 

Someone else had called me that 


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Mellow days in Bellagio. Moonlight nights among 
the cypresses. Idling on the lake, listening to the Oam- 
panello. Is it possible that twice in one's life one 
may attain complete happiness in that way? I don't 
know. More mature, perhaps. Different. Every- 
thing changes. We talked often and quite simply 
about Mary. Stella never showed any resentment ox 
jealousy. The great thing is to love — while you can- 
life is an inexhaustible storehouse of riches. We go 
on and on discovering them. Sometimes they appear 
fixed and essential, then one after another tiiey pass 
away. I accepted Stella as she came to me, as a god- 
dess satisfying every physical and spiritual desire. 
Our emotions obeyed a unifying demand. Our minds, 
in all the little mysteries of taste and inclination, 
dovetailed with a fine adjustment I never asked her 
if she had loved before, but one night she told me she 
had had " a terrible affair " when she was twenty-two. 
A married man, older than herself. Eond of his wife 
but a union without real passion. " It was perfectly 
awful, dear. We used to meet ... we loved each 
other desperately, and we both liked the wife. It 
seemed so mean. It went on and on. We simply 
could not let each other go. I believe I — I would 
have gone away with him. He wanted me to. It was 
only the thought of father and mother, I think, which 
kept me from doing it. . . . Oh, my dear, I'm so 
Eappy now to think I didn't'^ 

*' Is it all now dead to you ? " 

^'No, not dead. But something which has passed 
by on the other sida It was a foregathering, perhaps, 
(rf all these forces which I feel now. You are the real- 
isation. I know now that I have waited for you." 


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I pressed her to ma A strange mood crept over me. 
I wanted to say: 

^ I aon^t know. Fm a queer old card. Love comes 
easily to me. You darling angel, you hold me in the 
hollow of your palm. But my position is unusual 
While you hold me like this I am a complete and splen- 
did entity. The world can give me nothing more. But 
if you were to die — I am hardened to the thought, 
you see — if I were endowed with some abnormal 
powers of life — just this life — I believe I could love 
a thousand women, and each one reverently, passion- 
ately, finely — as I love you. Memory fades. Bodily 
desires are a quicksand, where no trace is left" 

I did not say this, but in the darkness she seemed 
to divine something of my thoughts. She suddenly 
whispered : 

"Do you think, when people letve each other like 
we do, that they are united for ever and ever % " 

" No. All this life, and perhaps X)ut beyond, but 
not for ever. Nothing lasts for ever. Everythiijg 

Her cheeks were wet. "It^s beastly cruel," she 

" No. It only seems cruel to us at this moment. It 
wouldn't be like you think — an awful parting — but 
. . . somehow different. I hate these people who call 
themselves spiritualists, who mess about with tables 
and messages and try to pierce the veil. They are 
simply fidgets. They have no pride. A man's busi- 
ness concerns his own soul and nothing else at all. . . . 
SteDa, you must not cry." 

"Was I crying? ... I don't know why, dear. 
Eiss ma again. Hold ma dose to you." 


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WE did not stay away for six months^ as I 
had suggested. There was too much to do, 
and Madeline could not be left. There is, 
indeed, something extremely primitive in the idea of 
a honeymoon. A period set apart for the more ob- 
vious delights of married life, and for nothing else at 
all. So obvious that, although it has the sanction of the 
"j? Church and the State, and the blessings (accompanied 
^•by slightly amused benedictions) of friends and rela- 
tives, the two victims, blushing from the very precise 
obligations put upon them in the Church service, feel 
it necessary to go away and hide. If they have the 
misfortune to encounter friends on this adventure^ 
there passes between them an exchange of knowing 
glances which makes the position almost intolerabla 

We stayed three weeks at Bellagio, and a week at 
Como. Then we. took a flying visit to Gtenoa, and re- 
turned home through Paris. At Paris we stayed for 
five days with Laura and Henri, in their fine house 
on the Champs Elysees. The visit was very enlight- 
ening to me in several respects. I found that Laura 
and Henri were leading quite detached lives, although 
still very devoted to each other. Henri spent most of 
the diay in his laboratory, or at one of the colleges where 
he was lecturing; Laura was living the life of a Pa- 
risian society woman. She had practically given up 



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the violin. Shortly after their visit to us, she had again 
given a series of recitals, but they had not been a 
success. Her playing had deteriorated, and her repu- 
tation had not been enhanced by the notorious vicissi- 
tudes of her career. The only thing that had come 
of it had been an ofiPer by a music-hall manager to play 
in a sketch specially written for her. He offered her a 
princely salary. There were to be coloured lights, and 
gorgeous frocks, and the incident of burning a violin. 
There was also to be a murder in it. Laura was to 
play under the name of " The beautiful Marquise de 
Thor Bohunville.*' Henri was, naturally, very op- 
posed to the idea, and eventually it fell throu^. 
Laura returned to Paris, and easily drifted into Sie 
conventi(Hial routine of a social life. During the five 
days we spent there it was easy to gauge the position. 
Laura never appeared till lunch-time, and then she was 
pale and irritabla At that time she was forty-five, 
but she might have been considerably more. In the af- 
ternoon she would sometimes drive, but more frequently 
retire for further rest At afternoon tea she would 
appear in a dazzling rest-gown and regale us with some 
of her social exploits. But it was not till the evening 
that she appeared to revive completely. In her evening 
frock, and the artificial light, aided by the professional 
skill of an experienced maid, she was again a beautiful 
woman in the very prime of life. She overpowered 
Stella with affection and flattery. Every night we were 
bidden to a series of functions. Sometimes we dined 
at home, sometimes elsewhere, but there always fol- 
lowed a theatre, a reception, or a ball, and not infre- 
quently the whole lot Henri dined with us, but he 
did not accompany us on these expeditions. He went 
to bed soon after ten. Stella rose to these attractions 
with alacrity. Great fun I She wasn't going to let 
these Parisians outshine her. She would show them 


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that she, too, knew how to carry a frock. She said that 
she thought that Madame la Marquise was one of the 
most fascinating people she had ever met. It was im- 
possible to keep track of Laura's friends. We met 
hundreds in those few days — deputies, scientists, 
merchants, and actors. Many we absolutely disliked. 
Others were quite charming. We rushed hither and 

Henri would be about when I came down to my 
English breakfast at nine o'clock. He had already 
been for a ride. He was about to go into the labora- 
tory. He would look at me with his deep, reflective 
eyes, and say: 

^' Good morning. Mister Tom. You enjoying your 
visit, yes?" 

I would reply that we were having a great time. And 
he would nod sagely, and add : 

"For a little while, yes. But one cannot live at 
both ends of the candle. I fear you will think me a 
boor. I neglect my guests disgracefully. Fortunately, 
my wife is a good hostess, eh? I have an important 
paper I am preparing for the institute. But please 
come into the laboratory and see me, whenever you feel 
60 disposed." 

I thanked him profusely. I only once, however, 
penetrated into this sanctum. On this occasion Henri 
was very charming to me, but I realised that I was 
obviously holding up his work. He had two assistants, 
and they were all working together, checking some 
figures. He immediately suspended operations, and 
gave the impression that he was prepared to entertain 
me as long as I could stop. I could not, however, take 
advantage of this, and after a few brief generalities 
I left him. Stella and I spent most of the day alone, 
and naturally we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 
We visited the picture galleries and museums, the book- 


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stalls on the banks of the river and the pig-fair in 
Montmartre. In the evening we placed oorBelves in 
Laura's hands. 


As we were returning home after our fourth even- 
ing's dissipation^ Stella whispered to me: 

" I'm glad we're going home to-morrow, dear. Fve 
had just enough." 

It was not, however, till we were in the boat train 
on the way to Dieppe that she said suddenly: 

" Tom, I wonder whether you will forgive me ? " 

"I'll make a bold try." 

" You know, I think your sister's a very fascinating 
person, but . . . there's something about her I don't 
quite like. I don't feel that I really know her." 

" She's a funny old fish. I wish you'd known her 
twenty years ago." 

" I'm sure she must have been ripping. Why is it ? " 

"Why is what?" 

"The change. She's altered, hasn't she?" 

"Yes, I'm afraid she has. I don't know. It's all 
very difficult and involved." 

" He seems such a ripping person. So simple and 

" I know. I hoped it might make all the difference. 
It's difficult to know the root of causes. She married 
a rotter at first, but when she was married to him she 
seemed to have more hope . . . more ideals. Now 
that she's married to a really decent chap she seems to 
have gone to pieces." 

" Perhaps it all started earlier than either." 

Queer ! At that moment I suddenly remembered my 
father's exclamation : " I wish I had never sent her 
to that Royal Academy." Absurd! As though a 


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musical career should seriously injure one! Some 
musicians have been quite nice people. There must 
have come some moment . . . possibly a perverted 
ambition. No, it must have started earlier than the 
Royal Academy. Stella's indictment worried me. I 
knew it was true, but I had never acknowledged it to 
myself. Laura had always been difficult, but never 
. . . quite like this. 

" I have an idea," I said abruptly. " She was very 
upset about our old man ... I told you, I think, he 
disowned her on account of this affair with Henri. 
They lived together before they were married. He 
never forgave her. Laura never speaks of it." 

"But, my dear, it seems so . . . unreasonable on 
both sides." 

" It is. When you get two people like father and 
Laura pulling different ways, it's like the irresistible 
force meeting the immovable mass." 

"And you?" 

"I was the kind of go-between. I nearly got 
squashed between them. On the whole, I think father 
was the more to blame. A girl with a temperament 
like Laura's can't be driven. She has to be humoured 
and managed. She's partly angel and partly Bengal 
tigress. She rushes to extremes. Father never had 
the imagination. He never began to imderstand her. 
His first mistake was " 


"When he married our mother. I can see it all 
now. He fell in love with her — a pretty, dark, Span- 
ish thing. He never had the imagination to see that 
she was different from him. She was his wife. He 
bore her off like a dog with a bone. She had to con- 
form to the code of Camden Town or die. Oh, God, 
isn't it awful 1 Every trouble in the world is caused 
by this — this lack of imagination. People go to war 


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becanse they can't believe that the other f ello^ has a 
case. They can't put themselves in his place." 

''It must have been rotten for you, Tom." 

'' It has been rotten. They are both so fine in their 
way — they both have sterling, fine qualities. And 
perhaps the greatest tragedy is — they loved each 
other. And yet when father died, he deliberately 
ignored Laura in his will. He left quite a lot of 
money, over twenty thousand pounds. It was all left 
in trust for stepmother, and afterwards it goes to me 
and Madeline. Of course, if Laura had not been well 
off, I should have insisted on it going to her. • . . 

" What are you thinking of, Tom ? " 

'' I was thinking of that dingy little pub upsetting 
the palace on the Champs Elysees ... of the far- 
reaching ravages of — unimaginativeness. Of Henri, 
sitting there among his bottles . . . thinking, thinking, 
thinking . . ." 

"Don't you think Henri might do more? Why 
doesn't he try to save her? " 

" Can't you see he has tried ? Can't you tell by 
his eyes? The man has suffered agonies. He is like 
a man preoccupied with a problem, the solution of which 
he knows will come ... too late." 


We established ourselves in the country, Stella, Made- 
line, and I. We found a small Georgian house two 
miles from Wychley Court. In addition to this we 
had a tiny flat at Chelsea. Madeline had now left 
school. She suddenly expressed a desire to take a 
science course at Cambridge, whither two girl friends 
of hers were going. I was a little doubtful at first 


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"whethei^ this desire was genuine, or whether she felt 
that her place in my household had been usurped by 
another. However, she seemed so keen, and she al- 
ways got on so amicably with Stella, that I decided to 
let her go. We all settled down to our various activi- 
ties. Jevons was pleased to see me back, but he said 
he could never forgive me for my effrontery in marry- 
ing one of " our customers." I retorted that I had 
merely done it for his benefit — to raise the status of 
the firm. I advised him to do likewise, only to choose 
one who was very rich. Her appearance and intelli- 
gence need not be of any great consequence. Then, 
to my consternation, I found that my poor old Jevons 
was in great trouble. He was almost serious when he 
rallied me about marrying Stella. 

"All right for you, old chap. It came over me, a 
sudden mood, just after you got engaged. I'm not that 
sort of person, but I got thinking about things — lonely, 
bored with the whole bally business. What's the good 
of making money when vou've no one . . . I've never 
had women fall in love with me. Not much. But she 
kept looking at me, as I passed through the cretonne 
department. It suddenly dawned on me one morning. 
Soho Square looked quite gay. I saw her going 
in '' 

" Who on earth are you talking about ? " 

" Miss Horlock." 

" That little girl who serves the chintzes and things ? '' 

"Yes. The thing suddenly got me. Mad. I be- 
lieved I was in love with her. I kept her behind one 
night when everyone had gone. I kissed her.'^ 

"The devil you did I" 

" Then, of course, it was all U.P. She seemed very 
sophisticated for her age. The whole thing was her 


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*'Wliat was tbe idea?" 

'^We went away together for a week-end, to Felix- 

"To — where?'' 

"To Felixstowe. What the devil does it matter 
where it was? The whole thing was detestable. I 
was hating myself like fun." 

Alas, poor Jevons! No friendly odd socks to save 
his soul I 

" And now do you see what it all means ? " 

" We mnst get rid of her gracefully and generously." 

"No; it can't be done. She wants to marry me. 
She means to marry me. Otherwise it will ruin the 
firm. Can't you see ? " 

" My dear old chap ! That's nonsense. Are you at 
all in love with her ? " 

" No. It was just a passing madness. But it was 
two months ago. She's holding out veiled threats al- 
ready. There's trouble in the oflBng. I've never done 
such a thing in my life before." 

" I won't have you marry a girl you don't love, and 
ruin your whole life, and hers. The firm must take its 

" It's decent of you, old chap. But I'm afraid I'll 
have to." 

I could see exactly how it had come about. I was 
annoyed with Jevons, but I was certainly not the one to 
throw stones. Felixstowe had all but been my undoing. 
But the girl ? I sent for her the next morning. She 
was a pretty, warm-coloured little thing, quite unlike 
Anna. I was quite sure that she had never saved up 
her lips for anyone. She looked at me obliquely and 
suspiciously. I remarked casually: 

" Oh, Miss Horlock, we are rearranging the soft 
goods department. I'm afraid that after next week we 


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shall not be able to continue to — avail ourselves of 
your services." 

She stared at me defiantly. Her lips quivered. I 
turned away as though the matter was at an end. Sud- 
denly she blurted out : 

" He^s put you up to this." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" He thinks he's going to get rid of me in this way. 
The coward ! " 

" Whom do you mean ? " 

" You know quite well, sir — Mr. Jevons." 

Then she began to cry. *^ I'm going to have a baby, 
too. . . . His!" 

My attitude of the stem director of a successful firm 
all went to pieces. I said : 

" Oh, no, no, don't cry ! I must speak to Mr. Jevons 
about this. All right. Miss Horlock. Now run along 
home and don't worry." 

To Jevons I said: 

" When I look at you, old chap, I am torn between 
two conflicting emotions. In the first place, what is 
going to happen to the country if you go on like this ? 
Blast you ! Have you no sense of honour, no sense of 
morality? On the other hand, who am I, to judge? 
I, to whom love and good fortune have always come 
like a natural birthright? On one side we have na- 
ture and patriotism, on the other, humanity and pity. 
I have always contended that patriotism is wrong be- 
cause it has nothing to commend it except naturalness. 
It is an exclusive, uncharitable, narrow-minded, short- 
sighted, bigoted thing." 

" All this hot-air talk is all right," interjected Jevons. 
" But the point is — what are we going to dof *' 

" Give me a night to think it over." 

The faet was, I realised that thers was osily on« 


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thing to do — to tell Stella all about it I told her 
all about it in the dark. It was more comfortable. 
When I had finished, she said: 

" How long ago was it ? " 

" About two months,^' 

''H'm. How disgusting! In any case, I should 
think it was rather soon to be certain. Let's hope she's 
made a mistake." 

Oh, this modem generation! What would father 
have said ? 


Among other work we had on at that time was the 
doing up of the house in Curzon Street belonging to the 
Marquis de Thor Bohunville. Laura had given me 
most precise instructions. She and the marquis were 
coming to London for the season in May. I kept 
Jevons very busy. Fortified by my wife's admonitions, 
I said to him: 

"We can't sack Miss Horlock. But we'll wait and 
see what develops. If what she says is true, we shall 
have to see her through her troubles. But the idea of 
your marrying her is ridiculous. It isn't only you 
you've got to think about. She would be bored to tears 
with you in no time." 

" Yes, but what about the kid ? If it grows up . . . 
always the stigma." 

" Look here, Jevons, I don't see why two people 
should live utterly miserable lives just to satisfy a 
public craving for convention. Perhaps by the time 
the kid grows up the status of illegitimacy will have 
been raised. Why, Leonardo da Vinci ^" 

" Oh, I've heard all about Leonardo da Vinci. He 
didn't live at Surbiton." 

"Well, what about that estimate from Weils & 
Scholtz ? Shall I ring them up, or will you ? " 


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Jevons required a lot of bustling. Over business 
matters he sometimes appeared to me to be almost un- 
acrupulouSj but over this affair his conscience was jag- 
ging him mercilessly. We all have our kinks of virtue. 

At that time I had a letter from Madeline : 

" Deas old Daddy, 

" It is simply ripping here. Adela Shaw, Polly, 
and I have just come in from a long run on a car be- 
longing to Dr. Parsons. I am taking up physics and 
moral philosophy. Joppleson, our physics master, is 
a perfect dear. We call him ^Pea-nuts.' Only be- 
cause he is a vegetarian, I think, and boils and drinks 
hot water during a lecture. His inside is all wrong, 
but he has a lovely mind. Makes everything seem big. 
Do you know what I mean ? I have joined the hockey 
club. I am pretty good at it, I think. Anyway, it 
keeps Twy inside all right. By inverse ratio I expect 
I have a nasty mind, and make everything seem teeny- 
weeny. It is a jolly life, so much going on. Some of 
the girls are awful cats, but most of them are ripping. 
My love to you both. 

"Tr. affect 
" Madbunb." 

Bless her! Moral philosophy! Hockey! People's 
insides ! I am miles behind her. I can only just see 
her over the ridge. If we could only get Madeline's 
advice about this affair, she would be able to tell us all 
about it. I have an idea that she could write a quite 
closely-reasoned and dispassionate essay on " The 
Future Status of Illegitimacy." But I can't ask her, 
because she is the other side of the ridge. It is in her 
hands, however, and the hands of her babies, that the 
fate of Milly Horlock's baby lies. 

I had the good fortune, a few days later, of relieving 


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Jevons of, in any case, some of his anxiety. We em- 
ployed an old porter named Peel, who used to wear a 
green baize apron and wheel carpets about on a trolley. 
One day, as I was going through the show-room, I heard 
him say to another porter : 

" 'Arry, where's the Rabbit to-day? " 

"Dunno. Gorn 'ome sick, I think." 

I did not take any notice of this remark, but later in 
the day I was told that Miss Horlock had telegraphed to 
say she was too unwell to come to business. Then I 
suddenly remembered old Peel's question* I b^an to 
ponder. After a time I sent for him. 

" Peel," I said, " whom do you mean by ' the Rab- 

He grinned. 

" Miss Horlock, sir." 

" Why do you call her ' the Rabbit ' ? " 

" Oh, I dunno. Everyone does, sir." 


He sniggered, and wiped his hands on his apron. 

" It's just a nickname, like." 

"But every nickname has an origin. Pea-nuts! 
No, I mean Rabbit — why Rabbit? She doesn't look 
like a rabbit. I'm only asking out of curiosity." 

Old Peel glanced furtively at the door. 

"Well, I suppose, quite between ourselves like, sir 
■ — you know, tibey say she's a bit — of course I know 
nothing. It's only hearsay. But I'm told that any 
feller — if you know what I mean. She's like that, 

" I see. I thought there must be an origin of some 
sort. Thanks, Ped. Don't let this go any further — 
that I asked you, I mean." 

" That's all right, sir." 

I went straight to Jevons. 

" Jevons," I said, " I have reason to believe that if 


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that girl has a child the credit is due, not to you, but to 
some other blackguard." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" That she is in effect what is known as a fairy. 
She got into trouble. Then she compromised you be- 
cause she thought that you were better off than any of 
these other seducers." 

" How have you heard all this ? " 

"I can't tell you, but I believe it is true. If it's 
true I shouldn't think it would be very difficult to prove. 
One has only got to probe about and ask a few ques- 
tions. If she has conspired against us, we have a right 
to conspire against her. We can even employ private 

"My God! if it's true — I'll chuck her in the 
street ! " 

" No, no, Jevons ; don't be a fool. You're none the 
less a criminal because you happen to escape. We are 
all responsible. The next generation won't think any 
better of us because we chuck her in the street. Who- 
ever the father is, we must patch her up, and give the 
kid a chance. No one has ever designed a man. We 
are all accidents. Let justice be done, though the firm 
of Jevons & Purbeck fall 1 " 


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**^ T^OU are the Marquis de Thor Bohunville ? '' 
^f " Yes, monsieur." 

M " You are a Knight of the Legion of Hon- 

our, the holder of many diplomas in various scientific 
and learned societies, both in France and elsewhere ? " 

" Yes, monsieur." 

The little grey-faced man looked over his spectacles 
and shuffled with some papers. One felt that he was 
neither very interested nor very bored; he was just 
getting on with it. 

" You have heard the evidence of the witness Angele 
Ballonet with regard to the finding of the body ? " 

" Yes, monsieur." 

" And of the Doctors Qascoigne and Waterspon, who 
have both affirmed that death was due to narcotic pois- 
oning resulting from an overdose of heroin ? " 

" Yes, monsieur." 

" Will you kindly tell us precisely what transpired, 
as far as you know, on the evening of the twenty-first 
and on the morning of the twenty-second ? " 

Henri looked down at his hands, and spoke in a low 

" The twenty-first was my wife's birthday. We had 
a small dinner-party at Curzon Street. Her brother, 
Mr. Thomas Purbeck, and his wife were there, Mr. 
Raymond, Sir Theodore Cartmill — about a dozen of 


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us* Quite a merry party. Afterwards my wife and 
most of the guests went on to the ball at Lady Cham- 
wood's at Bede House. Sir Theodore and I stayed 
behind. We talked for some time. Sir Theodore left 
soon after eleven. I went to bed soon after. I arose 
at seven o'clock on the morning of the twenty-second. 
I was very occupied all the morning. I had an inter- 
view with Mr. Fiennes of the Royal Society. I re- 
turned to lunch at one o'clock. My wife had not yet 
appeared. Angele informed me that she had been in 
to see her an hour before, and that the Marquise was 
sleeping soundly. I did not think it advisable to dis- 
turb her. We had lunch and I went into my study. 
At a quarter to four Angele came knocking on my door 
and screaming, ^ Monsieur ! Monsieur ! Vitef Vitel 
— la Marquise!' 

" I hurried up to my wife's room. She was lying 
perfectly still. Her face was a strange colour. Oh, 
monsieur, need I " 

" All right, all right ; thank you. . . . Now, I under- 
stand that you and your wife were in the habit of 
occupying separate rooms ? '* 

" Yes, monsieur." 

'' On the evening of the twenty-first you say she was 
in good spirits ? " ' 

" Yes, monsieur." 

*'Have you knowledge of any trouble or depression 
that was weighing upon her ? " 

" No, monsieur." 

"Was she normally a woman of cheerful disposi- 

" She was — variable." 

" Would you describe your married life as a perfectly 
happy one ? " 

"I — I think — I can hardly answer that question, 



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^^ Monsieur le Marquis, I presume that, being a man 
immersed in scientific studies, your time was principally 
occupied in that way ? " 

" Yes, monsieur." 

'* Was your wife interested in science ? " 

^' No — not very. Not at all." 

'' May I ask in what direction her interests lay t " 

^^ She was musical. She had her friends. She en- 

^^ At one time she was a professional musician. Isn't 
that so?" 

" Yes, monsieur." 

"I suggest from these circumstances that you led 
rather — shall I say detached lives? You went your 
way, and she went hers ? " 

"That is — true." 

" Was there any definite estrangement ? " 

" No, no ; none at all. We loved each other." 

"You loved each other, and yet you lived detached 

"Yes; it is difficult." 

" Now, Monsieur le Marquis, I must ask you — were 
you aware that your wife was in the habit of taking 

There was a long pause. The court-house was quite 
still. Suddenly Henri buried his face in his hands and 

" yes . . . yes, I knew. God forgive me 1 " 


The grey-faced man scratched indifferently on a piece 
of pardbment and quietly observed the witness until he 
was more composed. 

" How long had this been going on? " 


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" Oh, for six — seven years, as far as I know." 

" What did you do when you first discovered the 

" I did my utmost to dissuade her." 

" When you first married her did you suspect then 
that she had acquired the habit ? " 

" No, monsieur. I do not think she had. She . . . 
drank champagne, sometimes more than wisely." 

" You were at first, I presume, entirely devoted and 


"When did this spirit of detachment first show it- 

" It came gradually." 

" You do not ascribe it to any special cause ? " 


" From whom did your wife obtain these drugs ? " 

" Latterly — I do not know. At one time there was 
a man, Eene Salzmann. He supplied her. His body 
was found in the Seine." 

"Who else?" 

"I do not know." 

" Have you made no effort to find out ? " 

" Yes. I made great efforts. But what could I do ? 
My wife knew hundreds of people. She was always 
about. I should have had to keep by her side the whole 
time, and even then — you did not know her. She 
would have had her way." 

" The Marquise, I understand, came of humble ori- 
gin ; she was a professional musician, and she was also 
the divorced wife of a London concert agent. She 
was, I take it, a woman of lower mentality than your- 
self. You state that even at the end you loved her 
dearly. Now you, Monsieur le Marquis, are a man of 
great intellectual attainments, and, I am sure, strength 
of character. She loved you. The moulding of her 


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character was to an extent in your hands. You had 
the power to control, to direct, to influence ; you " 

It was then that the voice of Henri, playing on a 
vibrant chord, rang through the court. 

^* I could teach her everything there is to tell of life, 
monsieur, except — how to live 1 " 

Those were the last words he uttered in the court 
He collapsed, and had to be helped away. 


It may sound incomprehensible, in cold print, when 
I state that on the night of my sister's funeral I went 
to a concert. But so it was. Stella and her mother 
and I dined alone at our flat at Chelsea. It had been 
raining, and the night was humid. I had no desire for 
food, and their sympathy for once failed to arouse any 
response. They had not known Laura as I had known 
her. Perhaps no one — not even Henri — knew her 
as I had known her. Suddenly I pushed my plate away 
and rose. 

" Will you forgive me if I go out V^ 1 said. 

They both said, " Of course," and Stella came out 
into the passage with me. 

" The fact is," I whispered, " I must go and hear 


"Yes, dear. I*m all right. You mustn't worry 
about me. But I must either hear music or go mad." 

" Would you like me to come with you ? " 

" You'll understand me, won't you ? — but I would 
rather go alone." 

Stella held me a long time, and then let me go. I 
hailed a cab. I was in a fever that there might not 
be any music on, or that it might not be good. I drove 


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to the Queen's Hall. To my delight I found Sir Henry 
Wood's orchestra playing. I sat in a dim corner of 
the gallery, with my hat over my eyes and my collar 
turned up. 

" The charm of London is that no one knows or cares 
anything about you," I thought. The hall was packed. 
The same curious, solemn, detached concourse drawn 
from their innumerable " business and desires," seeking 
something. We none of us knew each other, none of 
us cared very much ; but we all wanted something • . . 
terribly. The orchestra began playing, and I looked 
down. I saw the top of Sir Henry Wood's head, and 
his arms waving, the sombre, business-like-looking gen- 
tlemen drawing their bows, and blowing through long 
pipes, and beating on drums ; the girl at the harp, the 
red electric light shades . • . the people. I do not know 
what they played. It did not seem to matter. I was 
so eager to find what all these other people were seeking. 

Something was very solemn and big: a broad theme 
with a simple line, and then, fluttering round about it, 
dancing like a will-o'-the-wisp, the intriguing graces of 
a second theme. It was not what is known as descrip- 
tive music. It was just music Just what you 
and I are . . . what we want. Music analyses nothing 
and explains everything. It fills up all the crevices, 
as ether fills up the holes in a bar of steel. I seemed 
to go right out of myself, and then to come back and 
find new springs ready to be tapped. Everything re- 
ceded and came into proportion. 

And there, in that prosaic hall, looking down on to 
the top of Sir Henry Wood's head, I seemed to find 
Laura. I seemed to know and understand Laura for 
the first time. Laura and her life. 

Is it beauty? Is it honour? Is it happiness? 
What is it we seek? The bubbles go racing through 
the wine and vanish. We raise it to our lips. • • • 


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Through the window we see the yellow leaves of the 
plane-tree drifting in the antunm breeze. Soon the 
trees will be stripped and bare. Another will hold this 
self -same cup^ will ask the self-same question: What 
is it we seek 1 One after another, things pass away. . . . 
But there is something there, and we cannot find it 

The small, unhappy boy, impatient of his youth — 
he wants to be a man, or perhaps an engine-driver. He 
is an engine-driver. Is he satisfied? No, no; the sta- 
tions and the signals flash by. The day finishes and 
starts again. He peers ahead, still seeking the elusive 
answer. Moments come when, blinded by beauty and 
ecstasy, we think we have found it But alas! they 
pass. This is not what we are looking for. These are 
but pin-pricks in the vast carcase of our being. So we 
go on, searching, backwards and forwards, up and 
down. We listen for sounds and portents. We peer 
into the eyes of our fellows. Do they know? Have 
they found it? No, no; they are peering into ours 
for the self-same reason. They cannot find it They, 
too, are searching and waiting. The priest talks of 
God, and we nod knowingly. The philosopher repeats 
something he has read in a book written by a Greek 
three thousand years ago, and we say : " Yes. Well ? " 
The scientist dissects a beetle, and makes something go 
faster or slower, and we murmur, " Wonderful, wonder- 
ful ! '' The artist throws the shadows of his various 
calf-loves on the screen, and we applaud him, because 
for a moment he diverts us, and gives a vague hope that 
he may stumble across it. Whatever it is, it must be 
the most wonderful thing in the world, because it is 
so intensely believed in. . . . 

"We can teach them everything there is to tell of 
life, except — how to live." 

Laura never knew how to live. She never had a 
chance. Life overwhelmed her. It was unmanageable. 


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It was all too much and not enough. She believed in 
this thing profoundly, and if she had found it she 
would have been a goddess. Possibly father found it, 
in his way, but he would never have been more than 
just himself. If you are satisfied with that, you may 
find it to-morrow. Laura was linked to the movement 
of the rushing wind and the stars, to the exegesis of 
these stirring chords, to the visions of Parnassus. This 
life was but a tiny bit of it all to her. She wanted to 
crowd it into something even smaller, taste it and throw 
it away. Music frightened her. It made her see her- 
self as she was — her power and her smallness; the 
little bit screaming for Olympian interpretation. She 
never began to understand . . . she sought vicarious 
substitutes, anything which came most readily to hand. 
The visions must be sustained. 

The seeds of this disruption were probably in her at 
her birth, the deliberate outcome of our father's ob- 
stinacy. But the point of cleavage came when she was 
living with Edgar Beyfus. When she began to — 
prostitute her art. Erom that time on the gods mocked 
her. She knew she had destroyed the spirit for the 
letter. She sought the little paraphrases. The big 
thing passed her by. 


A woman came on to the platform to play a piano 
concerto. I don't know who she was or what the con- 
certo was. She played well, but she had the conscious 
platform manner. A lot of little things were bothering 
her. Nerves, ambition, her frock, her friends, the 
Press, dread of not catching the conductor's beat. Poor 
wretch 1 no good while this lasts. We are moving 
again. Out and about among the rushing torrents of 
rhythm which make us what we are. Music interprets 


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us. It is Botbing to a cow or even to a Chinaman (not 
this music). It is us. The beat of our heart, the ebb 
and flow of our story ... all the half-awakened 
dreams, the best in us, the worst in us. Laura. 

The woman is playing well. She has forgotten about 
her frock and her friends and the Press and her fears. 
She is with us — leading us forward. She is exultant. 
Her soul is flooded. We don't exist. I have seen 
Laura like that. Conscious of her mastery, and yet 
flooded. The great thing pouring through her. Giv- 
ing it away and yet with something of herself added. 
In those days before she began to wear red carnations 
in her hair. Before the accident to the Guarnerius. 
Laura, you are intensely with me. All the little epi- 
sodes of your life stand out clear and vivid. Do you 
remember how you fought me about the spiders ? Do 
you remember how you came into my room to brush 
your hair? and your discovery that Evie was a white 
rabbit ? Coming home from the Academy, your cheeks 
flushed with the damp fog. Zuk. The awakening of 
formless ambitions. I remember thinking how you 
were like a musical instrument yourself, something to 
be played on. 

Poor old girl. It has been like that The world has 
played upon you, broken the strings, and thrown you 
away. Is it your fault that you were a musical instru- 
ment and not a plough or a sewing-machine ? A plough 
is used, a sewing-machine is worked, but a musical in- 
strument is awakened. It has something of itself to 
impart. A Strad has a sentient life, alert to the fingers 
of a master. And yet a Strad is made as the bodies of 
you and me are made, by a process over which we have 
no control, and not an ounce of responsibility. These 
" balanced " people ! How easy it all is I Suffering is 
a science, and living is a trick. You can either do it, 
or you can't. No one can teach you. You've got to 


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practise it hard by yourself, and be always struggling 
to " find out things." Even then you may fail. 

Old girl, you failed brilliantly. Perhaps that is bet- 
ter than succeeding meanly. You took so much away 
with you. Even now you are living in all this — the 
gorgeous colour of this slow movement, leading on and 
on. . . . They could not rob you of that. All they can 
do is to tabulate and card-index you. Oh, yes, we know 
what the little grey-faced man meant. *^ A professional 
musician, a divorcee^ of humble stock, took to drink, 
and — h'm, yes, very distressing. My dear sir, you, an 
educated man, why did you indulge in this mesalliance? 
Lost your head probably, eh? But why did you not 
keep her in order? Forbid her these things? Point 
out to her the evil of her ways ? You mean to say you 
were fool enough to make her your wife, and yet you 
could not teach her how to live! Preposterous! Is 
there not machinery for every eventuality of this sort ? 
What is going to become of all the automata of State ? 
Where is the power of property? Above all, my dear 
sir, what do you suppose is going to happen to — the 
country ? " 

How pitiless is the wind driving through the dark 
wastes where only water and marsh sustain the torpid 
protozoa! Pitiless the million million years. The 
slow, the almost imperceptible thrust of rocks and rep- 
tiles. The barren centuries where nothing lives but 
cruelty. Darkness, and water, and rushing wind, the 
slow development of fighting-powers. Claws, and 
talons, and raging hunger. The birth of poison, and 
protective colouring. The struggle, never-ceasing, just 
to live. A thousand centuries the wind has listened to 
it, and nothing else. Blows in the darkness, screams of 


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pain, lingering death, exultant torture. Just to live. 
Then from femur-like creatures arises a type that arms 
itself with stones, and then with iron and bronze, the 
better to kill, and mutilate, and destroy. The better 
just to live. Pitiless. In the heart of nature nothing 
lives but relentless cruelty. 

Oh, you funny little people ! As I look down on you 
on this night, standing in a compact mass in the body 
of the hall, with your solemn faces, your pipes, and 
your drab clothes, I suddenly realise how wonderful you 
are. Your life has been so brief in the measure of this 
story. You are a mushroom growth. I wonder what 
the wind thinks of you ? For in all the chronicles of 
nature you, and you alone, have known the element of 
pity. You do not know how wonderful you are. You 
are so occupied with all your little affairs, going, and 
coming, and loving, and grieving. You think you're 
rather clever, don't you ? You can do nearly any old 
thing you like with the little earth, which you have 
taken over as your property. You can link it up with 
chains and ships, and read its story in the rocks. You 
can twist the rivers, and bore your way through the 
earth or the waters. You can make it produce just 
what you want. You can make it do nearly everything, 
except perhaps revolve in the opposite direction. But 
that is not the remarkable thing about you. Please 
realise this. You are a mushroom growth, a nouveau 
arrive, and you have discovered pity. And pity is the 
only thing worth discovering. It did not exist till you 

If you would only always keep this in perspective — 
you, John Perkins, down there, in the mackintosh and 
the straw hat — there would be no need for you to get 
angry with your wife because the bacon wasn't cooked 
exactly as you liked it in the morning. Just think how 
wonderful you are, and that it is you who are also in 


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this big thing — the dawn of lova No, I don't mean 
what you mean, Agatha and Francis, nudging each other 
there in the sofa stalls. That was done in the neolithic 
age. I mean love in the big sense. It has all come 
so suddenly. You, Lord Clancy Pelville, leaning back 
in your cushioned seat, listen to the music of this 
scherzo, and realise how wonderful you are. It is out 
of all proportion to be jealous of that other fellow at the 
Foreign Office. That is the way wars arise. 

You are all in this, and the measure of your life shall 
be the measure of the way you use this gift. That is 
what Henri meant when he said he could not teach you 
how to live, old girl. He gave you all his love and all 
his pity, and he had nothing else to giva In truth, you 
did not treat him very well. I do not think you loved 
£im very well, or all might have been different. But 
you were not to know. Your angle of perspective had 
become distorted by an earlier injustice. The people 
we love are the people we want to tell things to. I do 
not think you told Henri very much. You were already 
consumed with those little paraphrases of the big thing. 
When I hear this music I love everyone — all humanity, 
the good and the vile. It explains everything. Every- 
thing is filled up. My heart is beating wildly. I want 
to make up for all these countless aeons of emptiness 
and suffering. I want to suffer myself, so that I know. 
I want to hug you closely to me, to whisper in your ear, 
to hear every little thing you want to tell me. Let me 
live it and make it mine. I cannot teach you how to 
live. ... No one can do that. I can only live myself 
because you want me. . . ~. Mary . . . Madeline . . • 
Stella . . . Laura. . . • 


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AVE atque vale, Jtoger and Stephen. Let me 
examine you and wish you God-speed. You 
^ are so absurdly alike, I am not quite sure now 
. . . Ah, yes, Stephen, I know you by your slightly 
tilted nose, and the greater breadth of upper lip. All 
right, old boy, don't wake up. 'Sh! There, there; 
that's right. Nurse is out, you know — she must have 
one evening a week — and Mummy has gone down the 
road for five minutes. Do you know what- she said to 
me ? " Just keep an eye on these little brats for half- 
a-shake ! " Wasn't it rude, Koger ? We do that, you 
know, we grown-ups. We take all kinds of advantage 
of your lack of understanding. I heard Miunmy say 
" Damn ! " this evening because you upset your bottle, 
Stephen. We call you awful names. You are little 
brats, too — savages. If ever anyone was neolithic! 
... I want to give you some advice, though. Of 
course it will bore you, but it may all come back to you 
in after-life. I shall write it down so that some day 
you may read it. Don't believe all the stories you hear 
about me, you chaps. I know I'm a queer fish, a fusty 
old crank. And in after years all these stories get 
exaggerated. One becomes a myth, a type to whom 
certain stories are automatically ascribed. Why I'm so 
concerned to give it you is because it is not likely I 

shall live to see you into manhood. I'm not that sort. 



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This rheumatism gives me gyp! I get so crusty and 
bad-tempered. You will hear all kind of records of my 
bad behaviour. 

You must allow, in any case, that it is pretty credit- 
able to be your father at my age. The father, of twins 
at fifty! Come, now, isn't it absurd? To be sure, 
the credit is more due to your mother, who is — now, 
let me see ; what is it ? — half fifty, plus seven, less one. 
There's a sum for you when you begin to count. She 
wasn't really keen on having you, you know. And when 
you arrived, you seemed — well, rather unnecessarily 
redundant. But now, of course, she is as rabid as the 
she-wolf with Komulus and Kemus. She finds astound- 
ing virtues in you. You have established my reputa- 
tion as a definitely comic figure. You cannot mention 
the word "twins" without people doubling up with 
laughter. It's like a red nose on a comedian, or a refer- 
ence to a mother-in-law breaking her neck. Jevons was 
perfectly cruel about you. It was particularly mean on 
his part He must have completely forgotten that only 
a few years before your coming I got him out of a 
scrape. The same sort of scrape as you are, only not 
half so respectable. Twins are ultra-respectable — al- 
most exceeding your obligations. 

Do you know what really keeps things going, boys ? 
It's — grandmothers. Grandfathers, too. I have al- 
ways found that women are keener on being grand- 
mothers than they are on being mothers. The fathers 
are almost as bad. I think they feel that when they are 
grandmothers and grandfathers the picture is complete 
and framed. They can sit down and read the news- 
paper. All their responsibilities have ceased. They 
are linked up at each end. When they die there will 
be crowds of people they can impose upon both coming 
and going. 

How round and absurd you are, Stephen! I must 


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smell your skull in the same disgusting way I used to 
smell your sister's. You are all inverted. Your 
knuckles are holes. You have projections where you 
ought to have holes^ and holes where you ought to have 
projections. You are simply impossible, but the thin 
down on your skull tickles my nose and makes me want 
to laugh. No, no, for goodness' sake don't wake up ! 
It is very important that I should write down on this 
tablet my message to you. We shall never really know 
each other. You are beginning where I leave off. We 
are miles apart 


I have to try to justify myself because everybody 
laughs at me. And I shall remain in your memory as 
a kind of old harlequin who failed at everything until 
he began to sell linoleum. Your sister laughs at me; 
your mother laughs at me. Do you know what they 
call me down at business? — Father William. I 
heard that old ruffian Peel refer to me one day as that. 
I'm certain he didn't know who Father William was. 
I suppose the name suggests my atmosphere. They say 
I'm untidy in my apparel, careless over details, absent- 
minded, often irritable. But I notice that they always 
come to me when they want favours, the dogs ! I know 
they think they can always wangle things out of me 
more easily than out of Jevons. Jevons has become 
quite the proper managing director. He hops down in 
a top-hat and tail-coat, with spats. He has married a 
most respectable person — the widow of a magistrate. 
They live at South Kensington, and leave their visiting- 
cards, with the right number of comers turned down, 
in people's halls. You know the sort of thing? You 
can't get a laugh out of Jevons, except sometimes when 
we are alone, and he forgets he is a managing director. 


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Well, what I particularly want to talk to you boys 
about is — success and failure. By all the canons of 
the game I have been a success ; that is to say — I have 
made money. In other respects I have been a failure. 
I have done nothing distinguished. I failed at every- 
thing until I started with Jevons, and even now we 
haven't set the Thames on fire. We have developed 
into a solid, respectable firm, known to a few wealthy 
customers. The success we have had has been largely 
due to sheer luck — Euysdael, Lady Stourport, my mar- 
riage. All my life I have, indeed, been very lucky. 
Ninety-nine people out of a hundred would say I am 
a lucky, successful man. I know I have failed; but 
you can keep that dark. I never quite found the thing 
I was looking for. It is not true that " the evil which 
men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with 
their bones." The use of the word " oft " is just one of 
the tricks of these writing fellows to give him a loophole. 
I have known somj© very pretty vices that have been 
completely buried with a man, and some virtues that 
have only been discovered after his death. If our poet 
is referring to reputation, I can assure you that, unless 
you succeed in getting several square inches in " Who's 
Who," both the evil and good are buried with you. No 
one is the slightest bit interested. If he is referring 
to the effect of character, the evil and the good live after 
a man in corresponding force. There are hospitals for 
rickety children, Rhd there are — well, you. Do not 
forget that. Success is not what you do, but what you 
leave behind. I do not mean by this that success is 
being a gramdf ather, or leaving a large family of 
healthy babies, or painting a masterpiece. I mean to 
say, it is what you contribute of yourself to the com- 
munity. You may not marry at all, you may not have 
children, but you cannot escape the influence of your 
character. Every day of your life you are either help- 


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ing or harrying. Every man and woman you meet, 
when you look into their eyes something definite takes 
place. You either help to make or help to destroy. 
The building is in progress. You may be the architect 
or you may be a stonemason, but according to the spirit 
in which you carry out your part of the work, so shall 
you count success. And we are building, believe me. 
The man who is staining the wainscot in the spare bed- 
room, or nailing boards across the joists in the loft, can- 
not see it He is so occupied with his little bit. He is 
apt to fret and say it's a rotten building. Never mind ; 
it will be all the better to have the floor^boards flush 
and true, 

I believe we are building; in spite of the morning's 
paper which records the slaughter of countless thousands 
of young boys on the outskirts of Verdun. The history 
of mankind is very short. He must at times be con- 
scious of his primordial ancestry. If a staircase ^ves 
way, it doesn't follow that the whole building is bad. It 
simply implies that there have been some indifferent 
and lazy joiners at work on one part of it. It will 
be up to you, boys, to see that next time the staircase is 
built more solidly. And this can only be done by each 
of you singing in your heart as you work. Not be- 
cause you are getting an award, but because you know 
you are helping the whole building. 

" Lord ! " I can hear you say. " What a prosy old 
bore our father must have been 1 " Well, you have 
escaped all that. You might at least be patient It is 
a father's prerogative to bore his sons. I have not the 
faintest hope that you will heed anything I say. In- 
deed, I hope you won't. You will be right beyond me. 
I am only trying to impress upon you that it has taken 
me all these years to discover the formula for success. 
And if I could only live more intensely up to my form- 
ula I believe I could find the thing we are all search- 


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ing for. It resolves itself into the realisation of the 
spirit of community. One after another we pass away, 
with all our little hopes and disappointments, loves 
and griefs. But the community survives. When all 
these parochial differences upon the continent have been 
adjusted, then will come a great chance for you boys. 
You have got to learn how to live. It has never yet 
bttn done. 


No one has ever yet found out how to live. Jesus 
Christ nearly did, and then He let the whole thing down 
with His awards and penalties and dubious miracles. 
Turning water into wine or loaves into fishes doesn't 
help the case at all. Buddha thought more about dying 
than living; Mahomet was too much like the hero of a 
story by Robert Hichens. The most satisfactory one 
of the lot was Confucius, who did indeed enunciate a 
reasonably good way of living, without worrying about 
the future life. But the whole conception is befogged 
by ceremonial, which is a kind of "King Charles's 
head " to him. 

You, I know, will dispense with all prophets, and 
seers, and saviours. I feel it coming. The decay of 
hero-worship is the first sign. And it is a good sign. 
It implies searching within rather than without; of 
acting rather than of being acted upon. Sermons in 
stones is a fine discovery. Everything lives ; everything 
is a part of the story. I have failed because I have 
sought satisfaction rather than surprises. A shock is 
more valuable than a palliative. When you begin to 
find yourself " settling down," then is the time to get 
really angry with yourself and to hurl a brick through 
your neighbour's window. Seven days in gaol would 
do you no end of good. You have always got to keep 


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on the move, and to remember that life itself is only a 
temporary arrangement Do you know that there is a 
Science of Suffering ? It astounds me that it has never 
been written up. Being the inevitable corollary to 
happiness, it seems odd that the professors have treated 
it with such scant respect Suffering is the solution of 
endless problems, but we always regard it as a thing to 
be avoided or ignored. The Christian certainly uses it 
as the emblem of his f aith, but he treats it as a senti- 
ment rather than a science. The worst amateur of the 
lot is a person called a Christian Scientist, who pro- 
fesses to believe that it doesn't exist at all. The Okris- 
tian Scientist is a kind of spiritual strap-hanger. He 
hasn't got a seat^ but he believes that because he's hang- 
ing on to a strap he's really sitting down. The whole 
idea bowdlerises the essential value of Christianity. 
One mi^t as well assert that it's always summertime, 
or that it only rains in the night, so you needn't take out 
an umbrella in the daytime. 

What fun it all is, Stephen. People, I mean, and 
talking through my hat, and raging up and down the 
earth. I wonder whether you will enjoy it all as much 
as I have ? I could go on for ever, living thousands of 
completely different existences, and loving it all the 
time. It's no good unless you love it You've got to 
love even the people you dislike. This war! . . . My 
dear boys, perhaps in your time you'll be able to focus 
it Or ytmr children may be able to find out what it 
was all about. For my part, I can only selfishly re- 
joice that you are too young for the sacrifice. A father 
who boasts that he is " proud to give his sons for his 
country" is boasting of being proud of giving away 
something which doesn't belong to him. I have given 
yoa lifa It is yours. It is up to you to do just what 
you think with it. I am your disciple, not your master. 
I have no right to order you about The world belongs 


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to you, not to ma I am all encrusted in memories, and 
associations, and prejudices, which, I thank Gbd, you 
need not share. 


There is only one of my memories I want to hand 
over to you. It concerns your sister Madeline. She 
is a kind of halfway-house between us. I want to tell 
you, because she is never likely to tell you herself. 
There are times when the sensibleness of this new gen- 
eration drives me to distraction. Madeline is like that 
at times. I sometimes think she has no feeling; then 
I know I'm wrong and that I'm an old fool. 

One day she came to me and said : 

" Daddy, do you think one could be happily married 
to a man who has been roarried before ? " 

" That's rather a leading question, my chilr'," I an- 
swered. " You had better ask Stella." 

" I hava Of course she thinks it's all right. But I 
can't make up my mind. You see, he has three chil- 
dren, and his first marriage was a complete success. 
He loved his wife — horribly." 

" My dear, who on earth is this J " 

" Geoflfry Storr." 

"Do you love him,?" 

"I'm afraid I do." 

What impressed me was the extraordinary detach- 
ment of this confession. In my time we didn't behave 
like that at all. There would have been heavings, and 
tears, and choking sobs. And yet Madeline was quite 
sincera Here was a girl in Uie early twenties, sud- 
denly finding herself in love for the first time, and she 
calmly considers the problem. She is weighing all the 

" I suppose it depends upon — how much you love 


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'* I mippoBe it does." 

She said nothing more, but went away. For monlliSy 
I know, she was carefally weighing the balance of her 
love for GeofFiy Storr against &e weight of obvious dis- 
advantages in having three ready-made children thrust 
upon her. I had nothing against Geoffry Storr. He 
used to come to our house. He was a pleasant young 
fellow, rather too " Oxfordy " for my taste, but a decent, 
clear-eyed boy. 

Then one day she came to me, and said : 

'^ You know, I'm afraid I shall have to marry him, 

I said : '' Oh, well, don't be afraid. You must surely 
know your own mind ? " 

'^ I love him all right. Only, of course, one must al- 
ways feel — that other one. I know he'll be uncon- 
sciously comparing me, and thinking what a rotter I 

I ought to have been able to help Kadeline enor- 
mously over this problem, but aU I could think of saying 

" You'U have to chance that. I don't suppose he'll 
compare you at alL It'U be all quite different. He'll 
have chained, toa" 

" Changed from what ? " 

" From — what he was when he was married to the 
other girl." 

" Do you mean to say he will have forgotten ? " 

" No ; oh, no. But there's nothing to bind him ex- 
cept memories. Memories are manageable." 

Madeline gave me a quick look, as though she was 
suspecting me of infidelity to her mother. It seemed 
to add a further diflSculty to the problem. Again she 
went away, and the affair drifted indetenninately. I 
did not attempt to influence her one way or the other. 
I do not know how long it might have gone on, or what 


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might have been the upshot, if it hadn't been for the 
war. GeoflFry had had some training in the Terri- 
torials, and he very easily got a commission. One af- 
ternoon Madeline appeared at my office in Soho. Her 
eyes were very bright. She was no longer the " sen- 
sible " modem girl. She said : 

" Daddy, he's going to France on Sunday week." 

I uttered an exclamation of sympathy. 

" Do you think I ought to marry him befwe he 

" My dear, I didn't know you — I didn't know that 
you had made up your mind." 

" Of course I shall marry him now." 

"Well, well; I don't know, I'm sure. It's rather 
sudden. Perhaps it would be better to wait till he re- 

"But, can't you see, my dear father? — lie's not 
going on a fishing expedition. Suppose . . . suppose 
. . . anything should happen ? " 

I realised that things might happen. Then the old 
problem presented itself: Is it better to be married for 
a few hours and then perhaps be a widow for life, rather 
than not marry the man you love at all? God help 
the thousands of women who had to spend sleepless 
nights seeking the answer to this question in their 

Madeline had thirty-six hours of married life. 
GeofFry went. He was at the front four months and 
three days before a telegram came to say that he was 
dangerously wounded. I do not wish to distress you 
with what followed. I can only say that your little 
sister behaved in a way that nuide me very proud. W© 
were given permission to go to the hospital in France 


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where OeaflFry was taken, but he died before our arrivaL 
fie had lost both legs above the knee, and he died under 
an operation. And on that night Madeline made me 
hold her very dose. And she whispered through her 

" I wanted him back, daddy . . . anyhow, anyhow. 
But for his own sake I'm glad he died. He always 
said it was the only thing he dreaded — to come back 
mangled or disfigured. And, daddy, I've got to be 
sensible. I've got to go on being stupidly sensible. 
You know why?" 

" You mean to say ? " 

" Yes. Thirty-six hours of married life. He knew. 
He made me promise. If the child lives — and I've 
got to want the child to live. It's beastly . . . hard 
lines, isn't it, daddy ? " 

And so, Roger and Stephen, next month, by the grace 
of Ood, there arrives for you an uncle or an aunt one 
year younger than you are yourselves! This will, of 
course, be stale news for you. You will probably say: 

" Oh, he's talking about old Tom or old Susan.'' 

And Madeline is very calm. She has that splendid, 
well-poised, " sensible " expression which you only see 
on the faces of modem women. Her spirituality is a 
practical instrument The Greek women were just as 
well-poised, but how can we tell how spiritual they were ? 
Sculpture is blind. Their literature is the literature of 
fatalism. They worshipped physical perfection, but a 
fatalist is the last person to know how to live. Made- 
line is finding out, I think. She has been through the 
furnace. She will help you far more than I can. 
What I have learnt from her is that to get the utter- 
most out of life you have to give the uttermost to it 
" To get the uttermost out of life " sounds too much like 
pilfering the nest. You must not pilfer the nest, you 
must add your little feather or scrap of straw. 


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Oh, yes, Stephen, I know. You want to wake up 
and yell for something I There, there; curl your little 
fingers round my thumb. Clutch it and squeeze it and 
pretend it's just what you want. Sa You will never 
know the man you were named after. He was rather 
a character, Stephen. You could do worse than be like 
him. A terrible fast bowler and, as he said, "no 
Joseph." A bit of a rip in his time, no doubt. But he 
was a clean man — a sportsman to the bitter end. Furi- 
ous that they would not take him in the Army. He 
dyed his hair — what was left of it — and swore he was 
forty*-nina But they laughed at him. At last he 
joined the Special Constabulary. He got his feet wet 
lurking around a deserted reservoir at Walham Green, 
caught pneumonia, and died in the service of his coun^ 
try. A good chap. And to you he will not be even a 
memory. And, indeed, why should you bother about 
him ? or even me ? You are twisting, and turning, and 
straining at the leash already. Well, the game's afoot, 
and I promise you it is a great game. It's well worth 
playing. You have to come to it fresh and strong, with 
all your thews and sinews taut, your muscles quivering, 
your eye alert and watchful, your brain the imperious 
master of the whole apparatus. Your nostrils quiver, 
the air tickles your sensibilities ; you are eager for the 
swift movements, the assertion of your powers, the 
lightning precision of your judgment, the miracles of 
chance, the joy of conflict. You are alive. . . . 

Lord, what an old bore I ami 

Yes, yes, it's all right . . . It's all right She's 
COMING I . . . "Stella, for goodness' sake 1" 




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